By: Anonymous, a CAP II accredited coach, AVCA member and former HS Coach
Reproduced here by permission of Author and USA Volleyball
NOTE: This article was submitted to Volleyball USA (Winter, 2000) anonymously to enlighten readers to the struggles that coaches face all over the country. Coaches leave the profession for a variety of reasons, but player and parent dissatisfaction and conflict are leading causes of coaching burnout. Youth sports and the actions of parents and coaches alike are under intense criticism. Identifying our goals in youth sports and emphasizing the positive outcomes is only possible if coaches and parents work together.
I decided to write this article when "they" finally got to me. I no longer coach high school girls’ volleyball. I did not make that decision; it was made for me. In January of last year, I was informed that after a long career, I would no longer serve in the capacity of a coach. I was fired. In hopes that this article may stimulate a greater understanding between coaches and parents in the youth-sports world, here is my story.
I spent my adult life teaching, coaching and watching my two children flourish at this small private school. I had a great team, skilled players, and what I thought was, for the most part, a supportive parent group. My 10th grade daughter made varsity and was our starting setter. My worries about the daughter-mother combination handling the player-coach relationship were never realized. I was perfectly happy twelve months ago. I had the reputation of being a tough but fair coach - "be at practice, be on time, give me 100% during those 105 minutes, be supportive of your teammates, represent your school well, be proud of your contributions, and be proud of yourself" were my expectations. We had a successful season - a district championship, a winning record and the positive growth of our younger players under the leadership of our seniors. The foundation was in place and the future looked bright. The key players were returning, many of which played club volleyball. This is the kind of team a coach spends years building and grooming to win a state championship. Unfortunately, I would not be their coach.
Soon after our loss last autumn in the state tournament, I received a call from one of "them," a parent, who said he "wanted to be fair." He informed me that he and his friends were "going after me." To this day, I do not know the exact reason(s) for his actions or for my dismissal, but I do know the impact. A parent planted the seed of discontent that eventually negated a lifetime of effort and robbed me of my career and of my dreams.
The experience of being fired as "coach," along with other coaching experiences, inspired me to write this article. I hope it will enlighten people about the effects of their actions on their children as well as on those who coach them. Coaches who are professional, take their jobs seriously and work to bring out the best in each and every one of their players can be affected by misguided comments and actions of some parents. I am not an amateur coach who got into coaching by accident or by managing my child’s little league team. I chose my career as women’s sports came of age in the late 1970s. I played collegiate volleyball at a large Division I school and began my coaching career as I finished my education. I chose my career because it would allow me to follow the deep interest I developed in college. From biomechanics to sports administration to psychology, I selected courses that would enhance my effectiveness as a coach. Through CAP and ACEP, I sought certification within my specialty in volleyball. I wanted the best for my players as well as the best from my players. I also wanted them to develop into fine, upstanding young women as well as talented volleyball players.
My interest and commitment to the sport led to my involvement in the development of Junior Volleyball in the early 1980s. I still am the director of a not-for-profit organization whose sole purpose is to expose girls ages 10 to l8 to the game of volleyball and provide them with high quality coaching and competitive playing opportunities. Today, I am not sure I even want to continue in that capacity either. Why? I am tired. I am tired of knowing that my best would not please 50% of the players and parents involved with youth sports. An incessant lack of loyalty and lack of dedication to the team aspect of sports has led to fighting between clubs and coaches for players and, sadly, emulates what we see daily in professional athletics.
What I witness daily in the gym, and in life, is that our involvement in team sports is no longer "for the good of the team." Instead, it is "what is in it for me and best for me?" What a shame! Team sports have the capacity to teach us so much, but do they anymore? Does our society even reward teamwork? Whatever happened to the notions that the whole of a "team" is so much more than the sum of its parts; that the pieces of the puzzle are what makes it come to form - not any one individual piece? Teams are like puzzles and both are incomplete without the smallest of pieces. Teamwork requires something from everyone, something that is not returned necessarily in kind or favor. Great teammates are difficult to develop today. Everyone wants to know, "What’s in it for me?, Will I get to play?, Will I get a scholarship?, Will I start?, Will I play outside hitter?" The emphasis on "me" makes the essence of teamwork and team increasingly difficult to coach. Why is this?
Unfortunately, most of the disruption to teamwork, cohesiveness and player satisfaction starts at home. I believe many times this is an unintentional outcome of concerned parents supporting their child. How does this happen? It can start from the innocent and justifiable notion of parents wanting what is best for their child. However, those seemingly protective instincts can easily become selfish interests that do not permit the lending of oneself for the good of the whole. Many times players hear at home that they are "better than so-and-so" and should be "starting" or "setting," or should be the "go-to player." From the parent point of view, comments like these are intended to build the child’s self esteem. Unfortunately, the result may be just the opposite - an increase in the player’s dissatisfaction and the lowering of her view of her worth to her team. Comments such as these tend to undermine the player’s identity as a valuable team member as well as undermine her coach and possibly her teammates. As a coach who has witnessed firsthand the effects of criticism on team dynamics, I would like to suggest the following:
Ten Guidelines for Being a Positive Player-Parent:
In November, my former team won the State Championship, the first ever for the school. My daughter had a year to remember as did her teammates. I have some memories as a parent that I’m glad to have. I’ll never know what it would have felt like to be on the floor with that group of girls - and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t care or it didn’t hurt. Sometimes doing absolutely nothing is what is best for the team. Thank you to: Dr. & Mrs. C., Mr. & Mrs. S., Mr. & Mrs. E, Dr. & Mrs. J., Mr. & Mrs. N., Dr. & Mrs. R, Mr. & Mrs. C, Mrs. W., Mrs. H., Ms. T, Ms. S, T.E. and P.K. Your support and comments meant the world to me. To the senior captains- your words will forever resonate in my memory. Congratulations - I couldn’t be prouder.