When Coaches [are] attacked

Football is in full swing again which means that we our days and evenings are consumed by all things football. The season is hardly past its first week and already there are signs that some of the teams that the boys play on are having issues with the number one killer of youth sports – parents!

No. 1 played on Friday – his team did not get the result we all hoped for but the team fought hard and though there is definitely room for some serious (offensive) improvements, the boys showed determination and heart in their second loss of the season. No. 1 is in his senior year so the losses this year will be more heartbreaking than the ones that they have endured in their three previous years together. The primary complaint from parents in the stands has been the obvious lack in offensive production. Not a big surprise considering they run the Double-Wing which leaves very little to the imagination. However, the boys are intent on making this their best season ever and as a parent I support them completely in that goal.

No. 2 decided not to play football this season so the only parents complaining about his performance are his own. His workload around the house has increased to develop and hone his ‘quick-twitch’ muscles during his long off-season. This may help convince him that his decision to forgo this season required more serious thought and reflection.

No. 3 played in a game on Saturday that started out a bit rough (they were down by 20 points midway through the 2nd quarter) but it ended on a high note as the team scored 34 unanswered points for a very convincing win. Unfortunately the win was sullied by parents who barked at coaches after the game because “Billy” and “Bobby” didn’t get to play. C’mon people this is a competitive league not the ‘trophy for participation’ league at the local YMCA. If your player did not play in a very closely contested game, chances are the coaches thought it was important to put the athletes that gave the team the best chance of winning the game. If you think the coaches are being selfish don’t you think you are being a bit selfish for wanting “Billy” or “Bobby” to have their chance in the spotlight at the expense of the team?

No. 4 has not played yet but I’m guessing that there will be a few parental meltdowns’ that will give me more fodder to write about. Stay tuned.

No. 5 played but it was relatively quiet because our family sat in the far end zone and did not hear much chatter on the sidelines. Even the post-game commentary was held to a minimum because there was a downpour at the final whistle that sent everyone scrambling for their cars before they had an opportunity to let their festering thoughts fly unabated.

Yes, coaches have their own way of doing things. We may not all agree with it but they are doing a thankless job, spending countless hours worrying, studying, devising the best possible scenarios for the best possible scenario. Everyone would be coaching if all you had to do was run practices, teach boys and match wits with opposing coaches. Unfortunately that’s only 15% of your job as a coach. The other 85% is spent explaining, defending and pleading your case with parents.

After No. 3’s team walked away victorious on Saturday, one of his coaches called to apologize that No.3 didn’t get more playing time. My response was to the point, “You don’t ever have to apologize to us about playing time. All of my boys know that they have to earn playing time and we won’t have it any other way.”

Am I wrong or should playing time be determined by some other criteria besides merit?

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16 Responses to When Coaches [are] attacked

  1. I completely agree, players should be played based on merit and I applaud all coaches for the hard work and time they put into working with these kids.

    • Seti Matua says:

      Whew – glad there’s at least one other person who agrees with me ; )

    • Carly says:

      I agree with you as well Seti, but you also have those parents who think their players are the best and should be out there playing more even though their player doesn’t give it their all.

      • Seti Matua says:

        Carly you bring up another point that is worth talking about: Kids who have the talent but lack the drive and ambition to be better. Sometimes they are more frustrating. I’ve always believed as a coach that I would rather have one kid with a little bit of athletic ability but a whole bunch of grit and heart, than a kid with talent who doesn’t want to be there and it shows in his speech and in his body language. Very good point

  2. Lei says:

    My No. 5 did not get to play in that too close for comfort game on Saturday. He supported from the sidelines, biting his upper lip and holding in his disappointment until he was safely situated in the car on the ride home. My son did not play (and it stung) but our very loud cheering section did not back down and we cheered as if he did play. I used the ride home as an opportunity to give my son a very important come to Jesus reality check. My words exactly: “Sweetie, in the real world, not everyone gets to play. Not everyone makes it into the NFL but everyone gets an opportunity to do their best, to change their attitude and to suck it up and remember only the strongest survive. Only the best get picked. Whether it be on the field or in the classroom – only the strongest and the best survive. I love you. I wish you had played but I saw you supporting those that played hard. Your attitude and how you respond to yours and our disappointment will go a long way in how life treats you and how you get through some really difficult times. Son, suck it up. Work harder to prove you can play the game and play it good. But don’t sulk if you don’t get picked – in reality, not everyone gets picked and how you deal with that goes a long way.” He was a little solemn (a few tears shed) but I noticed an immediate change in his demeanor, his post-game talk and his confidence. I could have coddled him and blasted the coaches but I chose to give him a reality check he will one day appreciate. I heard about the parents who were disgruntled that their boys didn’t get a chance as well as the parents who felt bad for the boys who didn’t get to play. What are we teaching our boys? What’s the important lesson to be taught? Winning? Attitude? Grace under pressure? They learn more from what they see rather than what we preach. If I had gone down and whined, coddled my son, or given him an unfair check on the game and his performance (by telling him he is the NFL draft when he’s not), he would be severly disadvantaged when life really happens. My boy will be okay even if he spends the whole season shadowing from the sidelines. His attitude (and the heart behind it) will change him, others around him and his whole outlook on life. Just sayin…..

    • Seti Matua says:

      This has to be one of the best comments I’ve read on this (I have to say very tiresome) subject. You hit it right on Lei but here’s the really cool thing, you’re No. 5 has been and will always be winning at life because he’s an exceptional young man. Tell him not to be discouraged his time will come because I see how hard he works. Bravo for the parental pep talk!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Good piece as always. I think once they hit the age where they have to try out for a team everything changes. If your kid just isn’t cutting it then of course he isn’t going to get playing time. Parents need to work with their kids outside of practices and maybe ask the coach what their kid can work on so maybe next time they can get more playing time. Parents just need to lightn up when it comes to coaches. Cheer for the team no matter what and remember these coaches aren’t getting paid. It’s totally volunteer work so unless Billy and Bobby’s dad wanna coach and start their own team so they can play their kids the whole time they just need to suck it up and deal. Get off the coaches backs.

    • Seti Matua says:

      I agree – our society is moving farther and farther away from try-out’s in sports, opting instead for ‘everyone is part of the team’ mentality. I was cut from teams and it taught at least one valuable lesson – to try harder and use the disappointment as motivation to be better. Like my friend Lei says in her comment [paraphrasing] life is filled with disappointments. It’s what you do with that disappointment that matters most.

  4. Hema says:

    “When Parents Attack”…sounds like another reality show in the making. Someone contact Discovery Channel or National Geographic… this is going to the next big thing. They may increase ticket costs because the show is getting better and better every year.

    What would little league and high school sports be without the colorful antics of the fan-coach-sports analyst-never played a down in their life-parents. It makes for some mighty fine entertainment (for some reason I am saying that last line with a southern accent).

    And yes… I am being very facetious. Smile, the season has just begun.

    • Seti Matua says:

      This would make for very violent TV bro – can you imagine the all-out, free-for-all this would cause? Move over Sister Wives, we now have Friday Night Fights Under Friday Night Lights …. How’s that for a long title that no one will ever remember?

  5. Great blog as usual bro! I think of MIchael Jordan who was cut from his team and worked that much harder to improve his game so that he could be the best. So I think we need to teach our kids to give their all / their best. Failure is not an option should be a motivator for our kids but teaching them that failure is okay as long as you got to play??? that doesnt seem to sit well. That allows for mediocrity at its basic level and I know mediocre is not what we want. I played for my dad in High School basketball and altho’ he taught us all how to play ball and other sports, if we didn’t give our best out on the court, he had no problems with benching us. I dont think I ever started it but I never gave up and I learned to be a team player and to support my teammates who were better than me. I was okay with being on the bench and subbing in. I learned to adjust and adapt to my circumstances. Team sports are valuable for that very reason – to teach teamwork and how to work together as a team … there is a difference between that and every needs to play – equal playing time? what da heck? Last time I checked you were playing for the love of the game so suck it up soldiers and keep at it.

    xoxo

    • Seti Matua says:

      I remember playing church and recreation leagues in Samoa like every game was a championship. It was something that was instilled in us from a very young age – Work and try your best to be better every day. You’re right, there is no other way because I truly believe that it carries over into all aspects of your life.

  6. I loved this post, Seti. Saturday was a tough game….physically and emotionally. I know Jason came home distraught because he was so proud of the team and the way they battled….and then was bombarded by parents and phone calls. He knew it would happen this season because we have so many kids on the team….but it’s especially hard when the people are personal friends of ours. He got mad and eventually started telling people things that probably weren’t the easiest things to hear….but I can’t say I blamed him. I have boys w/all different competitive drives and I have been on all sides of the fence. I’ve been upset with a coach for not playing my 1st grader last year….but I do believe at THAT age level, all kids should get some playing time. However, I respect that coach and his intensity…. I realize it was just the wrong team for my child. My other child thrived in that environment. I am realistic with and about my kids. I see my #3 boy dogging it at practice and not hustling like he should. When he says he’s not as good as #2, I always tell him he needs to give 100%. He has different strengths….and I am not going to tell him he deserves something he doesn’t. He has to work for it. Maybe it’s just not his thing, and that is just fine. To tell you the truth, he is just fine with handing out Gatorade to his teammates and even the older team. ha ha I have had parents say things about my #1 son for YEARS and it has been the hardest thing for me to deal with. I don’t think people realize how hard he is on himself. I don’t think they realize how much he genuinely loves his teammates. He comes home bragging about them and not himself. He feels protective and so bad for friends of his who don’t play or play as much as others ….but he is also very protective over the kids who do play more. He hates to hear parents or kids say someone doesn’t deserve a position or that someone else is better. It is really hard for me to hear parents complain about my husband or one of the other coaches, too. There always seems to be someone who could do it better, call better plays, pick a better team, etc. They yell at him from the stands, tell him after the game, send him texts during the week….you name it. That’s why I’ve chosen to sit off more by myself so I don’t have to hear parents saying things about the boys or coaches. I might sound like a baby, but I just have a really, really hard time not saying something back. They are a winning team, so obviously what they’re doing is pretty much working. They’re human beings who make mistakes and definitely aren’t being paid for their efforts. (Believe me, with all the time they put in….I wish they were paid!) Plus, I don’t think people realize how much the coaches truly care about the boys and their parents. Yes, there is always room for improvement with any situation or team….but it drives me crazy. I love to yell at the games and support the kids and coaches. I love those boys. I think there is a time and a place for approaching a coach, too. NEVER in front of the team and NEVER right after a game. Go home and think about it and make sure it’s something worth complaining about in the first place. If you feel like you have a genuine complaint, then give them a call later. Most of the time, we all usually find that it’s NOT worth saying anything. I’ve had to console more than one of my kids on several occasions after a game they didn’t get playing time, believe me. It sucks to see one of my kids upset like that…and it hurts as a parent to watch our kids struggle, but it’s a choice they make when they become part of a team. Sorry this was so long winded. I guess it just hit a little close to home for me. I probably should keep my mouth shut, but once again…I can’t. I would probably have a lot more friends if I did. : )

    • Seti Matua says:

      It’s tough on coaches, tough on players and I can only imagine how difficult it is to have to sit in the stands and listen to all of us carry on like we can do better. Yes, coaches don’t have all the answers and yes, athletes have a tough load to shoulder especially when the game is not going as planned. The great thing is that the boys battled through adversity and the entire team including the coaches found a way to overcome the deficit. At the end of a tough day/game what matters most is that those boys learn and enjoy the game and that they walk away from the season with respect and admiration for their coaches. Their all great kids and you guys are doing a great job.

  7. Esther says:

    “All of my boys know that they have to earn playing time…” I’d consider this statement tweetable. Awesome.

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