Each year at different points in the athletic calendar, there is turnover. Coaches leaving, coaches coming in. When you have 10 schools in a coverage area, it's more or less a natural process, but a recent wave of resignations has given me pause. You take a look around and ask yourself, "What is going on here?"
Coaching, like officiating, is a very difficult job. High school coaches are dealing with turning 12-50 (depending on the sports) individuals into a team and with that comes the everyday struggles of the average teenager. I remember my high school days well and administrators certainly had their hands full. It is a full-time job that never really stops. When the season ends, a coaches job does not. There are summer programs, coaching clinics, workouts, and constant planning. Improvement is an ever ongoing process and the best coaches are never satisfied. It's a full-time job in addition to, in many cases, a full-time professional job. It takes away from personal and family time for them. It's sacrifice, and for not much compensation in most cases either.
Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't know that any coach out there is sacrificing their time and energy for the money involved. It has to do with passion, taking a vested interest in the well-being of student-athletes, molding them into future leaders and productive members of society.
It is so much more than wins and losses, though it is only human nature to place more importance on that aspect of the job, which brings me to my next point.
Coaches take a lot of abuse. I understand it. I have a child of my own, who is not yet two years old, but who may play sports one day if he so chooses. I can imagine it being hard to show restraint when it is perceived that your child is being slighted.
Living vicariously through your student-athlete is not exactly a new phenomenon and I would never call someone out for doing it, but maybe somewhere along the line, we've become too involved.
There are leagues in existence that accept kids from the age of three. These leagues count wins and losses and hold championships, and these titles are celebrated and hyped.
I'm a very competitive person and I like to win, but everything has its limits. I think as a society, we need to re-evaluate what we're doing.
It isn't hard to imagine that a young child who is put on a pedestal for winning repeatedly, at an age when the goal should simply be to learn team mechanics and to have fun will inevitably be in for a rude awakening at some point. They aren't all superstars.
It is a sad day when good coaches voluntarily step down for what could be partly attributed to repeated behind-the-scenes confrontations. Who could blame them? I am only an observer at this point but I have witnessed things that leave me shaking my head at times.
This isn't a general indictment and this isn't to admonish anyone but I do think we need to be mindful of what our area coaches do and the predicament they are in. They are key figures in a student-athlete's life.
Sometimes our own personal agendas get driven to the forefront and we forget.
The MHSAA has assembled tips for sportsmanship, put together by student-athletes at their Sportsmanship Summit of 2010.
Among them are
Let the coaches coach
Follow the Golden Rule
Think before you act
Respect players, coaches and officials
All students and parents show positive attitudes throughout the game
This is our time, your time is over
I think I would add one more that I didn't see listed and this I say to all involved in the game.
Be accountable for yourself.
When things don't go the way you desire them to be, don't let your first instinct be to blame the coach or blame the administrator. First, look at yourself. Are you putting in the time and work necessary for your role?
We have to trust our coaches to do the job they were hired to do. No coach is ever going to get every decision they make, met with applause and gratitude. It just doesn't work that way. But I would call for civility and respect when a conflict arises. Two-way communication can solve a lot of problems.
Additionally, the time to approach a coach with an issue is not right after the game. I would recommend taking some time to consider the issue. Think it over and talk it over with your student-athlete, then decide if it is worth pursuing and discuss it with the athletic director and/or coach. Respect yourself and others involved and handle the matter with class.
Though the recent wave of coaching turnover may have happened regardless, I have to believe that outlying factors were a part of it. Good coaches are now gone, and it may have been prevented.