I read with interest a story about Medford’s volleyball coach not having her contract renewed for next year. This coach continually increased the win total every year, and Medford volleyball had the best year in the history of the program last fall.
So why was she not renewed? There has been much speculation, and I’ve seen reports that she was fired for not playing the “right” people. I’ve also seen rumors that she has been accused of bullying players. We may never know.
It got me to thinking about coaching. As I continue coaching Jayna’s basketball team, this is the 18th team I’ve coached for basketball, plus 13 years of coaching baseball. I used to be convinced I would coach forever and that I wanted to be a varsity coach. No more. When I’m done with Jayna’s group and after a stint of coaching Anton for baseball, I’m through.
It’s not that I don’t enjoy coaching. When all you have to worry about is that – coaching – it’s a fantastic job. But there’s so much more involved, even at my level, and I can’t imagine what our varsity coaches deal with.
Last fall, I threw the idea at Pat Churchill, NRHEG’s boys’ basketball coach, that we might never see another varsity coach that stays at that level for 30+ years, such as Ted Pelzl and Jeff Reese. He agreed quickly; while he enjoys his position, he thought that being a varsity coach for that long is unrealistic today for most people.
Let’s look back at the Medford volleyball position. If the coach indeed bullied players and scared some off from the team, that’s very wrong. Why would she do that? Did she feel pressure to win? Someone once told me that in small communities like ours, no coach has ever been fired for not winning.
Or look at the other possibility – not playing the “right” people. Listen, I understand that parents want to see their children succeed and get a chance, but life doesn’t always work that way. Do parents do the same thing if their children don’t qualify for an advanced placement class in school? I’m guessing the griping happens a lot more in extracurriculars. If you want a chance to play more, then work harder. Also, understand that some people just might be better than you in the end. It’s the same experience some people have in the job market.
Coaching at a varsity level is a different beast today than it was when I was growing up. Back then, your season was clearly defined. Fall sports started in mid-August and ran through October. Winter sports went from November until February. Spring sports were an exception, where school events happened from March to May, and then most of us played summer ball.
Today, you have 12 months of some sports. Basketball coaches have players leaving for volleyball practice, football coaches see players playing fall baseball, and all summer coaches fight with basketball leagues during June and July. You don’t just get to be a varsity coach during your season; it’s a year-round job.
People grumble if you don’t win. Everyone has an opinion on what you should change, whether it’s the offensive scheme or the playing rotation. Hey, I have opinions too, but I can at least look at things from the perspective of someone who has a lot of years of coaching under my belt.
My goodness, John Schultz helped lead our girls’ basketball team to a state championship, and I’ve still heard complaints about how he runs the program. Are you kidding me? What do you think can improve? He’s helped set up the program so that even after this year’s seniors leave, there won’t be a giant dip in talent, and there will be fundamentally sound players.
Some people just won’t be happy unless their vicarious inclinations are fulfilled through their children. It’s time to get the blinders off and recognize that most coaches will always do what they feel is best for their program, even if it might not be what you like. Not every coach is great and not every coach makes good decisions, but most of them do what’s best for the team.
It’s difficult to find coaches these days; just ask Dan Stork about that task. It doesn’t make it any easier since so many coaches know that they have to do so much more than just coach kids. My hat’s off to those who can carry on at a varsity level for an extended period of time. I know, and I hope others do as well, that you’re doing the best job you can.
Word of the Week: This week’s word is concatenate, which means to link together, as in, “Dr. James Naismith was a wise man when he was able to concatenate a peach basket and a ball to create basketball.” Thanks to Galen Spinler for this week’s word! Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!