“I don’t care what kind of pressure to win that you face from the administration. If winning is your primary goal as a coach you have significantly lost your way and as a consequence, you’ll actually win less.”
– Alan Goldberg, PhD
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Although you have already been made aware by telephone of this recent situation at the high school, I wanted to proceed with providing something in writing for the files. I am copying all parties involved.
Last week, after a boys’ varsity basketball game (another loss), my son pulled his coach outside the locker room to speak to him privately. He asked him why he and a few of the other upperclassmen were constantly remaining on the bench while the coach allowed the younger, recently promoted JV players to play instead. This behavior had been taking place throughout the previous nine games of the season. My son had not mentioned anything to the coach prior to this particular night, and had handled his disappointment with a maturity beyond his years. All parties will agree that he also handled this private conversation with the coach in a very mature, calm manner as well. The coach, possibly upset because of the recent loss to add to many others, responded to my son with, “They get to play more because you’re not as good as them.”
[Let me interrupt here by saying that, (1) this is absolutely not true. My son and the other benched players have the same set of skills that the others do and twice as much heart. And, (2) no coach should ever…EVER…speak to a child in that manner.]
So, after hearing those words from his coach, my son (who’s heart and soul was in this team and his fellow players), fought back tears and shook his coach’s hand and told him to have a nice rest of the season. He then came upstairs and told myself, his father, his step-father, and his grandfather what had just taken place. He was in tears, which is a rare occurrence for a sixteen-year-old boy, as I’m sure you can imagine.
And, as I’m also sure you can imagine, this did not sit well with his family.
[Let me interrupt here yet again with a story. One day I stopped at a gas station on my way to work. A sweet little black dog started to come up to me. Thinking, “aww, he loves me,” I bent down to pet him. Instead, he walked straight past me, proceeded to pee on my tire, and then went back to his spot and lay back down. This, my friends, is what had just happened to my son. But, I digress….]
After hearing of what happened, I proceeded to go downstairs to speak with the coach. I remained outside the locker room waiting for him to come out. I was approached by the athletic director and two of the assistant coaches, who all told me that any incidences that happen in a game have a mandatory 24-hour wait period before they can be discussed. While I did understand this rule, the incident in question was not something that happened in the game. It was something that happened after the game, when my son was humiliated by his own coach. So, I remained where I was waiting to speak to the coach. Once we realized that the coach had actually snuck out the back door of the locker room to avoid speaking to me (cute), the athletic director offered to call the principal to discuss the matter. I took him up on that offer. I spoke to the principal, to the assistant coaches, and to the athletic director about the situation, but not to the coach, who had snuck away to avoid facing his actions.
While on the phone with the principal, she offered a meeting during the day the next day at the school. I explained to her that I work out of town and that timing would not be convenient for me. So, she suggested (as a first step) to speak with the coach and my son privately first thing in the morning, to which I agreed.
However, this is far from what happened.
My son’s grandfather called the high school first thing in the morning to arrange for him to be at the meeting due to my son’s father’s physical limitations that make it hard for him to get into the school. After a series of holds (one of which exceeded 20 minutes), my son’s grandfather was told that he was not “allowed” to attend the meeting. The school then proceeded to have the meeting, which did not in fact take place just between the coach and my son, but which included the coach, an assistant coach, the principal, the vice-principal, and the athletic director. And my son. Alone, with no one on his side. The principal insists that they were “all there for my son,” but that is highly unlikely due to what took place.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
During this meeting, the coach first blatantly lied and said that he did not say that to my son. He then proceeded to imply that “if he had,” then “isn’t that what coaching is all about?” (The principal also suggested this when speaking to me on the telephone later…that every child has a “role” on the team. Apparently my child’s role was to be told that he was no good and just be there as a practice dummy for the “real” players during practices.) Well, Mr. Coach. And Ms. Principal – let me explain something to you.
No, that is absolutely NOT what coaching is all about.
I have been a coach myself. I just recently coached a running team that consisted of all girls…all of varying speeds and abilities…and I would never, EVER, look at one of them and tell them they weren’t as good as the others. No, a coach’s role is to nurture their players, both mentally and physically, and help them become the best players they can be. Telling them they are not “good enough” and keeping them on the bench where they can’t get any experience are not the way to do that.
But look at me digressing again.
So, after the highly inappropriate meeting of many members of “authority” ganging up on my son, he was sent back to class and nothing was accomplished. He was still off the team and the coach still insisted that nothing was ever said to him to cause all of this.
Our family was irate. I spoke with the principal who, as I implied earlier, reminded me that “even if the coach had said that to him, that is a coach’s role,” and then my son’s father followed up with a phone call with regards to his disapproval of the way the situation was handled. He went to the school and, very painstakingly, made his way to a repeat meeting that included the same people, minus my son who did not want to miss his first day of classes in the new semester. At this meeting, nothing was accomplished either, and the coach was the first to get frustrated and get up and leave – before the meeting was officially over. Mature behavior? I think not.
There were two more games last week that took place after these events. My son attended them to cheer on his team. Talk about maturity. At both of these events, while all other parties involved spoke to my son (including the athletic director and assistant coaches), the coach did not. In fact, at one game, he was walking towards him, saw he and his grandfather standing there, and proceeded to physically turn around and head the opposite way to avoid having to speak to him.
Is this the kind of person we want leading our children?
In the days following this incident, I have heard a few things that may shine some light on the happenings of last week. I have learned that another sports team was caught doing something that was against the rules, but were allowed to resume. Perhaps a punishment was enacted, but the team members continue to play. Most notably, however, I have also learned that the principal and the coach have been “buddies” since high school.
Now, you have to understand, I didn’t grow up in a small town. I grew up as an Army brat. So, this small town “good ole boy” politics is something that is brand new to me. And it is something that does not sit well, to say the least. I will not allow this to lie dormant.
Something must be done about this situation. What we, his parents, want is this: we want our son’s position reinstated on the team and we want the coach’s and the principal’s behavior in this situation to be addressed by someone in a higher position. We want our child to be believed and treated with respect. We want everyone involved to act as maturely as our son has and put this situation behind us, with a better understanding of what a coach’s role should be.
I will anticipate a speedy response to my request. I am making this letter public on my blog because, while I may not be able to enact a change, I can definitely enact awareness of the situation. My next step is the local newspaper (with names inserted), but I’m sure we’ll be able to come to an understanding and a compromise before it has to go that far.
(A highly upset and fiercely determined mother)