Parents meddle, coach exits, life goes on

Column

ESCANABA — Clayton Castor didn’t pull any punches.

Castor resigned late last week as the head varsity basketball coach at Gladstone High School and told me exactly why he’s stepping down.

“At the end of the day, the reason why I am resigning is because of parents,” Castor said. “I don’t want to deal with them. The last five years I have coached at Gladstone I have given it my life. My time could have been better spent doing other things.

“I really, really enjoy this. But parents have taken the fun and enjoyment right out of it. Maybe some of this is on me. I just don’t have thick enough skin or the will to put up with it. For that amount of time, it’s just not worth it.”

So there you have it. Castor, the 2017 U.P. Class ABC Coach of the Year, is walking away from a gold mine.

He’s handing the keys over to another coach to steer the program into what should be a very prosperous era for Gladstone basketball.

He’s leaving mainly because of parents.

He’s not the first coach to exit because of parents and he won’t be the last one.

In an era where parents have changed — yes pro-active parents have changed and kids have not –another coach is packing up the whistle, memories and hours of blood, sweat and tears to move on in life.

This is one of those not-so-very-good stories that is happening across the country.

Gone are the days when high school coaches will stay in the pilot seat and guide programs for 25 years or more. Sure, there are going to be exceptions, but they will not be the norm. Not here in the Upper Peninsula and not in Anywhere USA.

This Castor story troubles me.

Granted, I am a newbie back in my hometown. I covered Castor and the Braves for only one season.

But I saw enough to know that Castor is a good coach. I saw enough to know that he was coaching for the right reasons.

I strolled into a Braves’ practice during the holiday break to hear Castor end the session with words about life.

Castor told his players to enjoy the rest of their day.

He challenged them to be good people and to go touch somebody’s life that day.

He told them to pick up the phone, or go visit a grandparent, relative or neighbor.

His message was simple: Yes, our basketball team is important, but you guys need to be quality people and be a positive influence on others in this community.

That’s leadership folks.

Of course, there are other dynamics surrounding this story.

Castor probably did some things to rub parents the wrong way. It happens.

And he was head coach while his son Reece was one of the stars of the team.

Coaching your own son is never easy and the coach somehow never wins in this situation no matter what he or she does.

So what does it all mean?

What is the parents’ role in high school sports when it comes to Johnny and Jenny’s participation? What happened to trusting the coach to do his or her job for the benefit of the team?

How should coaches handle meddling parents? How many one-on-one meetings are necessary?

What is the purpose of high school sports in 2017? Is it the chase for college scholarships and the warped thinking that goes into that?

Ultimately, I believe high school sports are necessary for teaching life lessons. No offense to our schools teaching math, science and social studies, but the sports setting is where students will learn the most about their life journey.

Sports teaches team work and how individuals must mesh together to accomplish great things. This is how it goes in the workplace and parents won’t be able to influence Johnny or Jenny in their future career dealings.

Sports teaches about adversity and falling short. This is what happens in real life with job losses, health problems, politics in the work environment and parents won’t be able to influence Johnny or Jenny when these future issues happen.

More than anything, sports teaches life isn’t fair. Sometimes, you don’t get the job promotion. Sometimes people cheat you out of money and rewards that you’ve rightly earned. And parents won’t have much influence on Johnny or Jenny in those future situations.

Ironically, Gladstone lost another coach Monday when girls’ varsity basketball mentor Eric Lundin resigned. He cited family-time issues and it had nothing to do with Castor’s resignation.

So Gladstone will search for two new varsity basketball coaches.

I wish the new hires at Gladstone and other area schools all the best in their positions.

I wish them much success in their duties of leading student-athletes.

And … thick skin to deal with pro-active parents.

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