Parents Need To Support Coaches, Not Undermine Them

By Grant Tolley Times Record

Twice in as many days, I have seen something in sports you almost never saw 20 years ago: Players back-talking to coaches on the field.

It wasn’t that bad either time, but it was enough to take notice. Even just a little muttering or bad body language by a player when the coach is instructing them on the field makes the player and the coach look bad. It makes your whole school look bad, really.

The first time I saw it this week, one team’s star player popped off a little bit during infield warm-ups after making a bad throw and the coach hollered a correction. The second time I saw a team’s pitcher and catcher basically refuse when the coach ordered an intentional walk and it resulted in a walk-off RBI by the opposition.

I know a lot of people will say "Well, that’s the coach’s fault for putting up with that." That is partly true. If you allow disrespect from players it will only tend to escalate.

But both of the coaches in these situations were in a tough spot. They are both first-year coaches trying to take over programs with losing traditions. They know their team’s psyche is already fragile and are trying to hold it together and build for the future.

Back in the old days when I was a kid if you mouthed off to a coach you’d be running until you puked the first time and sitting on the bench the second time. There would be no third time.

These days, I don’t believe coaches think they have as much support if they draw a hard line on discipline.

Parents are more likely to take up for their kid and take a gripe to the school’s AD, the superintendent or even the school board. School boards are a political organization and tend to placate griping parents over backing up their own coaches.

Parents are also likely to gripe about coaches to each other and undercut their authority. On the way home, after baby had a bad game, daddy says, "It’s not your fault, the coach don’t know what he’s doing."

How should we expect teenagers to respect their coaches when their own parents are not supporting the coach?

The most laughable thing I hear is when parents say the coach "plays favorites." About every coach I’ve ever known wants to win a lot more than they care about making friends with the parents. They will play Attilla the Hun’s kids over your kid if it makes the team better.

When I see a player with a bad attitude or a team with poor discipline, I look straight to the parents. A coach should never have that situation come up, they have enough to worry about in setting the lineup and making adjustments.

Parents have a tendency to see the game just through what’s best for their kid and not what’s best for the team.

I saw a mom during basketball season chewing out a coach on the bench for not playing her son while the game was still going on. When the coach put the kid in a few minutes later, he immediately fumbled the ball right out of bounds. Hmm, maybe that’s why he’s not playing, mom?

What it boils down to is this. If you are a player, keep your mouth shut and do what your coach tells you to do. If you are a parent, make sure your kid does this by backing the coach up.

Your team might be losing on the scoreboard, but don’t act like a loser on the field.

Grant Tolley has been a sports reporter at the Times Record since 1992. He covers high school sports, with an emphasis on the area’s small high schools and golf, and he writes a weekly column. A 1984 graduate of Springdale High School, he has a bachelor’s degree from Austin College in Sherman, Texas.