Traversing the highways to Washington from southeast Kansas back in April provided me with a lot of time to think.
As I made a nearly five-hour journey, leaving a flat prairie behind for the winding roads and hills of Missouri, several topics crossed my mind.
Yes, I considered my future destination and wondered what may lie ahead in Washington. But one thing that kept crossing my mind was the coach I had interviewed just days earlier, one of my last assignments at my previous place of employment.
And when thinking of this coach, and his situation, I wondered to myself, “Can a coach still be a disciplinarian in 2014?”
Let me fill you in. The man, who we’ll call Marty, had been a successful high school football coach for 25 years. He’d won two state championships, coached in five state title games, and had 22 winnings seasons.
But last fall, Marty was brought in twice by the school board to discuss his methods. Marty was told he was too hard on his players, and that he needed to ease up.
Regardless of what he had accomplished and done for his school, he was now being lectured by board members who had no experience in coaching. Yes, the board members, in their minds, were looking out for the best interests of their athletes. I understand that. But I’m not sure it was the right thing to do. In their opinion, more and more boys were not going out for football because the longtime coach was “too hard” on the kids. He apparently expected too much out of them. In their eyes, he was too much of a disciplinarian. In his eyes, he simply demanded excellence.
After the team’s season ended, board members again talked to Marty about changing his ways. Again, there was no one incident they could point to, but again stated they felt he was too hard on the kids. He decided it was time to step down. He resigned his head coaching position after 25 successful seasons. He’d had enough. The school board could find someone else.
Marty was “old-school” all the way. It was his way or the highway. But in today’s society, that appears to be a problem.
It wasn’t always that way, was it?
Back when I was in high school, my basketball coach once grabbed me by the jersey and yanked me toward him so he could yell at me up close for committing a careless turnover. He did it in front of a packed gymnasium, too. But I never even thought about making a complaint or saying a word. I’m sure many of you have similar stories about your old coaches, too.
But I guess the “old school” era is now over.
A successful coach was basically forced out because a few people thought he was too hard on their kids. To me, that’s a shame.
I think communities and/or school districts have to decide what they really want. Do they want a coach who is a disciplinarian — one who teaches responsibility, hard work and expects a lot out of his athletes?
Or, do schools want a coach who will be easy on the athletes, allow everyone to play, and not expect too much? You know, let’s all just have fun, and everyone gets a trophy, too.
I think I’ll take the coach who expects more, whether that’s considered a disciplinarian or not. Those type of coaches usually have high expectations for their programs and athletes.
If today’s high school coaches don’t teach discipline and demand a lot, aren’t we doing the student-athletes an injustice? The real world may be a bit tougher for those kids who had an easy time in high school.
And don’t sports teach life lessons? Things like responsibility, work ethic, being accountable for one’s actions, and being rewarded for hard work are things that many of us have learned from participating in athletics.
My old coaches taught me that. And Marty’s story was a reminder.