You see I never thought the small town we landed in would end up being a place where we had to worry about the politics of coaching. We were wrong.
So parents, I write this to implore you: we're losing good ones. Good coaches and good teachers are leaving the profession because it's so hard to do it with integrity.
Most of us know what we want to do: use that big love to defend and protect our coach!
But what does that look like? Should we call out those who are actually at fault? Tell the bleacher coaches they have no idea what they are talking about and to zip it? Highlight the inequalities? Underscore the unfairness?
Most of the time we are silent partners in this deal, but we have to ask ourselves: are there times when enough is enough?
He doesn’t have favorites. He’s not purposely or viciously not playing your kid. There’s more than just pure talent that goes into making that decision. Attitude and effort go a lot further than you think. He doesn’t have it out for your kid. He is simply trying to teach them there are consequences for actions and teamwork will always take them further in life than selfish ambition.
It’s a story we hear multiple times a year.
Athlete is disciplined.
Athlete goes home to tell parent a version of a story.
Then, before going to the source, before verifying the story, before taking a deep breath, parent goes to social media, riles up a mob of followers (most of whom have no dog in the fight), and ties the coach to the proverbial post.
Coach is sent a screen shot.
Coach calls parent for a meeting.
Parent’s tone is completely different than the online post. (Weird.)
Things are worked out in a calm, collected, and mature fashion.
Everyone is good.
Except not. Because the damage has been done, the reputation has been created, the mob has begun to assemble. What was meant to be an issue between two parties is now a community-wide one.
And here’s the thing, we get it. We, the wives of these men, live with them everyday. If anyone knows they make mistakes, it’s us. We aren’t saying they will always be right. We aren’t defending them by saying they will always make the best decision in every situation.
If anyone knows they’re human, it’s us.
But here’s what else we know. They love your kid. The vast majority of them are doing their best to teach and love and educate and mature your child. They want what is best for him. Their goal is to make her the best athlete and human she can be.
And maybe it’s not the method you would like best, but at the very least, before you take your anger to the mobs, give them an opportunity to discuss.
In this age of rage texting and keyboard warriors, let’s teach our children a valuable lesson: when you have an issue with someone, you take the issue directly to that person. You don’t stop by Facebook or Twitter along the way. You deal with it in person. You have open dialogue. You make yourself available to listen, not just talk. Period.
Otherwise, all you’re doing is asking people who love you, agree with most everything you say (otherwise they wouldn’t be seeing the post), and don’t know the truth to affirm your opinions and jump on board a bandwagon of anger. You are sparking fires not only in your own heart but in the hearts of those reading it.
The real question is, who does this help? Not you. Not your student. Not the coach. Not the school. And most certainly, not the morale of the team.
It causes division, mistrust, negativism, and anger. Your kid begins to doubt his coach, his teammates, and his passion.
And isn’t the whole point of sports to teach kids character? Let him be taught!
Just like there was ten years ago, there’s still a chain of command. If you are upset, go to the coach; then, to the Athletic Director; then, to the administrators. To social media, never.
If we can’t do it, how can we expect our kids to do it? If for no other reason, let’s teach them how to handle conflict effectively before they go out into this overwhelmed, stressed out, anxious world. And until then, let’s do our best to make the world kinder for their grand entrance.
We’ve got to stop blaming the parents for the epidemic. Parents are always going to be passionate when advocating for their kids. Rightfully so, to some extent. We would love for all of us to lose our bias towards our children, but that probably won’t ever happen.
Next, there is a time and a place for this conversation. It is not now, not after a game, no matter the outcome. It is not while his family, friends, colleagues, and community are watching. Not in the middle of the field or outside the locker room. Certainly not at the volume you are speaking; the time and the place is not now.
If I was you, I would try supporting these men that give their energy, time, passion and love to your children ... using football as a tool to prepare them for life. Especially when your son is with the coach more than you. Get to know them, how you can help, get to know their families sitting next to you in the stands. I’m sorry if they made a play call you disagree with; they have quite a bit on their plate.
They will grow up on the field, awaiting the end of the 4th so they can run into their daddy’s arms and the hugs and kisses will be just as sweet regardless of what the scoreboard says.
Remember that we coach in their sacred spaces. We are coaching the people they have loved, raised, cried, and prayed over long before we got them. For some, we are coaching their validation of self. I’m not making excuses for poor behavior, I’m offering a space for us to gather some empathy for the seemingly extreme reactions.
You know what IS the best for them?
Working harder than everyone else.
Getting better just for the sake of being better than they were yesterday.
Learning to have hard conversations.
Staying late at practice.
Taking extra shots.
Running extra sprints.
Busting their tail in offseason.
Thank you to the dad who poured his entire can of Pepsi on my son’s leg because he got into some poison ivy in hopes the acid would maybe stop a reaction.
Thank you to the parents who see me struggling to carry two children and half my house to my seat and offer to help.
The ones who scoop my three-year-old up and says, "I have him, he can sit with us tonight”.