Between the Lines: Fight the good fight against parents
If you’re a longtime subscriber to Coach & Athletic Director, you’ve probably noticed we address the tumultuous relationships between coaches and parents at least a couple of times each year. It’s no accident. Regardless of the amount of coverage we give to problematic parents, readers continue to reach out with questions or to describe confrontations they have with moms and dads.
There’s nothing more heartbreaking than seeing the coach, weathered and broken from the constant pressure, walk away from the job. That happened earlier this year in Michigan, when high school basketball coach Clayton Castor resigned from his position after leading his team to its most wins in 20 years and earning Coach of the Year honors along the way. Not everyone was satisfied.“At the end of the day, the reason why I am resigning is because of parents,” Castor wrote in his resignation letter. “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.”
This happens more than we know. It comes from parents constantly badgering coaches about playing time, berating them from the stands or writing critical letters to athletic directors and principals. The pressure can be great enough to force even the best coaches from their jobs, but I urge you to stay the course. Here’s why:
In our July/August issue, Michigan State University strength and conditioning coach Ken Mannie wrote a thoughtful piece about the strength of coaches. It’s an inspiring article that examines the sacrifices coaches make to be a role model for young athletes, some of whom are in desperate need of direction and stability. Mannie’s message is to keep fighting the good fight, because although you may not realize it, your sacrifices change lives.
Parents can be loud and persistent, and they sometimes cross the line when they don’t get their way. But you’re not there for them. Winning games is only part your job, and precedence will always be given to character development, teamwork and leadership. It’s because you understand that and give so much to it that your school, program and athletes need you. It can be frustrating and demoralizing to deal with so much negativity, but don’t walk away from those who need your guidance.
It may never be easy, but do everything you can to silence your most vocal critics. Report incidents to your athletic director, and take time to explain your decisions to parents so they can better understand your thought processes. And above all else, regularly remind yourself of why you coach — it’s not for the parents.
Kevin Hoffman is the editorial director of Coach & Athletic Director. He can be reached at [email protected].