It’s always sad when a coach isn’t appreciated.
I’ve noticed it quite a lot in Tooele County even if some instances have been secondhand. More than a few stories have reached my ears of parents complaining about how “Coach Jones cut my Johnny from the basketball team,” or “my little Susie definitely doesn’t get enough playing time on Coach Stanton’s volleyball team,” and “the softball coach here cuts anyone she doesn’t like,” as well as “this guy won’t last long when the school board hears about this.”
I’ve even had an athlete go as far as to tell me on the record with my voice recorder in plain sight that they don’t like the coach.
Now let me clarify: This column is not in response to an athlete’s comments, nor is it about any one team or coach. I’ve come to respect many coaches, athletes and parents. This is an issue that has been on my mind since I arrived in Tooele County.
A favorite coach I’ve known, former Utah State University head football coach Gary Andersen, often said “players make plays, players win games.” Ultimately, it’s the coach’s responsibility to teach and train athletes during practice, then put them into a position to win a game. It’s the athlete’s duty to execute the game plan to success.
I imagine the biggest time a community might not rally around a coach is during a losing streak.
Sometimes a coach doesn’t know how to utilize talent and is dismissed midseason, but I’ve only really seen that in the professional arena. In high school and college, I’ve seen it happen a lot less, and it usually happens during the offseason.
But most of the time, especially when recruiting athletes to a certain high school is supposed to be against the rules in Utah, there’s only so much a coach can do with a limited talent pool in his or her high school boundaries.
At the same time, I know how frustrating it is to have a coach who doesn’t care. One of my cross-country coaches in high school admittedly didn’t enjoy the sport and resigned. While I wasn’t fast enough to get college paid for, it’s not something I blamed on the coach. I suggest parents in Tooele County try a similar outlook.
In my experience, it takes about four years to determine if a coach has what it takes to make a winning program — and only if he has the resources to train the next three years’ worth of teams or run the entire community’s youth football program, like I’m told they do in Texas.
I admit there are only a few people who care more about the success of Tooele County athletics than the parents of the participating athletes. But at the same time, I wonder if said parents realize the coaches are some of the few who actually do have more invested.
My father is a coach at a high school in the state, so I know firsthand how many hours a coach works. Once, he did the math to learn his coaching stipend earned something laughable like $0.50 per hour for one of the three sports my dad coached every year.
As a basketball coach, the occasional bench player or parent would accuse my dad of having favorites and playing the political game to determine which kids got playing time. He would usually respond with “I do have favorites — they are the athletes who are the most talented, the ones who practice hardest, the ones who don’t give me attitude and the ones who follow instructions.”
I’ve also seen him bench and suspend his so-called favorites for lashing out in emotion at other players, officials and coaches, or even failing to comply with team academic standards.
The biggest thing I think people forget is that a coach is rarely solely concerned with the team’s win-loss record. Even if winning is the first priority, building teenage athletes into young men and women who have character, respect, discipline and integrity is usually second on the list.
I just hope Tooele County remembers coaches are people, too. They have lives and families. Believe it or not, they have feelings and deserve respect regardless of how many wins their teams earn. High school coaches in Utah practically volunteer for the opportunity to become a mentor to a teenage athlete. In most cases, they’re doing as good as anyone could be expected to — even parents who have a depth of coaching experience themselves.
And they have to do it all with people breathing down their necks.
Tavin Stucki is a decorated sports writer from Midvale, Utah, who chose journalism in part because he knows he doesn’t have what it takes to be a coach. Send any comments to email@example.com.