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The Coach Meets the Angry Parent

February 28, 2010 - Al Stephenson

I attended the district bowling tournament Saturday and enjoyed the day very much - that is, until the end.  As I approached the coach of a local high school team, he was listening intently to a man.  The man was filling his ear with an opinion that he seemed to feel very strongly about. 

As I got closer it didn't take long to figure out what the man was upset about.  His son had not been put in the lineup and dad was not happy with that fact.  He repeatedly told the coach, albeit without cursing or getting really loud, that the coach was wrong for not playing his son.

When the man finally walked away, I started to commiserate with the dejected coach.  The parent then returned for a second salvo.  The coach should have been a man...  he should have sat someone down in favor of his son...  the coach was wrong.

I am here to tell the parent this.  Sir, the coach is not the one who is wrong - it is you!  The parent was wrong on so many levels that it defies logic.  Let me see if I can explain.  I have been both a coach and a parent.  Neither job is easy when it comes to athletics, but certain decorum should be followed.  Here's how this one shakes out.

Parents tend to look at situations such this with a little bias.  They do not see the whole picture many times.  The do see when a kid who is playing instead of theirs makes a mistake.  They tend to forget the times their own child does the same.  It's natural to do so, but it doesn't mean its right.  Parents want their kids to play and they find excuses when it doesn't happen.  They do not see things the way a coach might.

When it comes to parents seeing things differently, I'm reminded of the man who looked out his window and couldn't understand why his neighbor would hang out dirty laundry on his clothesline.  Over and over the neighbor would do this.  Then one day the man was cleaning his house and decided to wash his windows.  When he then looked out he was surprised that his neighbor had CLEAN laundry hanging out.  Sometimes we don't realize our own shortcomings.  We are human.

In this case here are the reasons that the parent was wrong.  First of all the coach was a replacement.  The regular coach (an unpaid one at that) could not make the tournament.  He asked the guy to fill in for him.  There was a good chance the interim coach was following the regular coach's instructions as to personnel and lineups.

The team did have two bowlers in particular who struggled on this day.  One was replaced after the second game.  The other was the best bowler on the team.  He had shot a near 700 the week before at sectionals.  He is capable of stringing a lot of strikes and you tend to stick with that guy.  Have you ever seen a basketball player miss several shots in a row only to make the next several? 

This is the last step before the state tournament.  The goal is to win.  Though the team was far back heading into the Baker format, the chances of that changing quickly is readily apparent.  The team that was sixth going into the 6 Baker games came in first.  The team that was leading ended up sixth.  This was not a time to insert a new bowler just to let him play.

The kid that did not play was a freshman and had the lowest season scoring average on the team.  His turn may come, but not on this day dad.  You should have held your tongue.

I felt sorry for the coach.  He was blindsided.  He didn't see it coming and it had to hurt.

The view from my seat (enjoying an otherwise outstanding athletic competition) suggests that participating in high school athletics can, and should be, educational.  Athletes learn many lessons that can be applied to all aspects of later life.  Among these are the values of hard work, team play, sportsmanship and self sacrifice.

Instead of verbally abusing the coach, the dad should go home and explain those values to his son.  Practice and be patient, next time you may get to play more.  For now just root on your teammates, that's what team sports are about.

If nothing else dad - wash your windows. 


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