Getting coaches, parents on the same team sometimes difficult
Monday, March 05, 2018
High school athletes have varied support systems, but coaches and parents are central to their efforts. Those two entities might not always see eye to eye in support of the student-athlete, and that sometimes can lead to difficulties for both the adults and the student-athletes.
Coaches cover the spectrum from those concerned with helping their athletes to become well-rounded adults to those coaches who are interested only in games and practice. Similarly, some parents want only glory for their sports-playing children, while others revel in the complete experience for the children and their families.
Vocal and critical parents often get the most attention and coaches' ire. LaVar Ball, the former college and pro athlete with three basketball-playing sons, perhaps is the most visible illustration that the clashes extend beyond the high school gym. Ball has not been reluctant to criticize his sons' coaches and teams.
His oldest, Lonzo, plays in the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers, frequently a target of the elder Ball's criticism. Younger sons LiAngelo and LaMelo play in a league in Lithuania. LiAngelo left UCLA's basketball program after playing in one game and being suspended over a shoplifting incident while the team was in China. LaMelo, who was committed to play at UCLA, was removed from his high school team by his father over concerns with coaching.
While LaVar Ball is highly recognizable — even inspiring a spoof character on Saturday Night Live — he's not the only parent who wreaks havoc on teams and coaches' careers.
Positive interaction is abundant as well, according to Matt Harbin, the baseball coach at Texas' Little Elm High School.
"The parents that care about their player's attainment care about who they become as they grow and achieve," Harbin said. "They are the parents that teach their players how to deal with failure and are very supportive of the program, usually not for selfish reasons."
To many coaches, parental involvement is a cause for concern. Ohio high school football coach T. Lance Engelka resigned last fall after stating he received death threats from parents of players on his team, which was 1-19 in his two seasons.
"These threats of physical harm and verbal abuse stem from the misguided community perspective on the irrational importance of winning high school football games, unrealistic expectations from parents related to their son's abilities and future prospects, and parental belief that bullying coaches is an acceptable method of communication," Engelka, also the school's dean of students, wrote in his resignation letter, according to TV station WXIX.
In Scarsdale, New York, a group of former coaches recently sounded off against school administrators after seven coaching departures in less than two years, The Journal News reported. The coaches cited parental interference for the resignations and dismissals.
In some instances, the dispute makes its way to a different kind of bench. Tennessee high school baseball coaches sued a player's parent for $6 million in a defamation case that led to an abuse investigation of the coaches, The Knoxville News-Sentinel reported.
A California high school baseball coach won his case when a lawsuit against him over playing time was dismissed earlier this year, according to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.
Parents can impede coaches sometimes without realizing it, said Katy Hevelhurst, a parent of three former high school athletes in Michigan.
"As a parent, don't coach from the stands," said Hevelhurst, whose son and two daughters combined to play 10 sports in youth and high school leagues. "It's hard on your child to know if they should listen and follow your instruction or listen to their coach."
Sports have moved beyond games in some instances, a point stated by Jeff Sherman, head baseball coach at Texas' Marcus High School.
"At the end of the day, it's a business," Sherman said. "If you don't treat it like a business, and don't communicate, you'll fail."
Adolescence is already tough enough, with school, grades and relationships all weighing heavily. For those teens who play sports or work — or do both — time management is an additional burden. Sports can be an escape, but it's up to coaches and parents to allow that to happen.
For every controlling and overbearing parent, though, there are thousands of supportive families that boost sports programs and perform thankless tasks behind the scenes to allow the coaching staff to turn its focus to the games — and the young players.
"The best way parents can help at any level is to just be supportive. Coaching is stressful enough, especially at the high school level," said Scott Hevelhurst, Katy's husband, who also coached their children in youth leagues.
Sure, college scholarships are valuable, and are one of many reasons that students play sports. But those funds can be earned in other ways.
There are always academic scholarships. And many people overlook livestock scholarships, which are sizable. Recently at Texas' Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo, more than $3.6 million was awarded to student exhibitors, including $200,000 to one student. For a lot of kids, that certainly beats running laps or blocking drills.
For those who play with the intention of earning a college scholarship, or even a pro career, the road is a tough one. According to NCAA statistics, only about 6 percent of high school athletes compete in sports at the NCAA level. Many of those are playing at Division III schools, which are not allowed to offer scholarships.
Only six NCAA sports offer full scholarships: football, men's and women's basketball, women's gymnastics, tennis and volleyball. In other sports, available scholarship funds are usually split among several team members. That means that the rest of the athletes playing in college are paying for tuition, books, room and board and other costs some other way.
For players, coaches and families, the stakes for high school sports might seem high. But at the end of the day, athletics are an extracurricular activity — not a life-or-death situation.
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