Let’s Hear From The Parents

It’s really tough being a parent of a kid that plays athletics.  It’s really tough if that parent, like me, has coached.  If being a coach and a parent has taught me anything, never complain about playing time.  That’s a coach’s decision.  You can disagree, but it not a point to argue with a coach.

The first fact I need to say is I think Matt Stoecklein, Maryville High School’s boys’ basketball coach has done a great job with his team.  I certainly don’t have any objection s with the way Matt has run his program.  They have an outstanding team that could go deep into the postseason.  My opinion is Matt has made some outstanding decisions this season.

I’m afraid not every parent has felt that way about my coaching in the 33 years I spent as a high school and college head coach.  I had a “two week” rule about playing time for complaining parents.  One parent actually cost their daughter playing time.

I’ll with-hold the names for obvious reasons.  I had a local player that came to Northwest on a small scholarship.  I could see early in her career she had the talent to be a starter for us.  She didn’t play much as a freshman, but was impressing my assistant coaches and me with her play at the start of her sophomore year.  Right after Christmas, we decided to give her more minutes.

That very day a very long email was sent to me by the sophomore player’s mother.  It gave very valid reasons why her daughter should see more playing time.  Many of those reasons, my assistant coach and I had discussed.   Unfortunately, I couldn’t have mom thinking her email helped get her daughter more playing time.  I’d have too many emails to read from parents.

I had to put the two week rule into effect.  Little did she know that we were going to play her daughter more, but not for two weeks and four games.

I told the player the story about the email when she graduated.  By this time, she had been a two year starter and her playing time had really shot up her sophomore year, but just not at the time of the email.  Needless to say, she wasn’t happy with her mother.

There was one more instance where a mother cost her daughter.  This time it was scholarship money, not playing time.  The player was local, too.  I had gotten her to Northwest for a half a scholarship, with the promise to increase the scholarship if she received substancial playing time.  Unfortunately, the player struggled to adjust from a small school to college basketball.

After her sophomore year, I saw a few signs she was adjusting.  I had decided to up her scholarship to 75%.  All scholarships are one-year contracts.  It’s the coaches’ discretion on how to distribute the scholarship money.  However, before I could notify the player of her increased scholarship, I had a visit from the mother.

After finding a seat in my office, I closed the door to listen what mom had to say.  She almost immediately went to tears about how the player would have to quit if I didn’t give her 100% of a scholarship.

I couldn’t get a word in and the tears continued to roll.  I heard everything from two kids in college to low wages for the parents.  I wasn’t fooled for a second by this display, trying to get my sympathy.

After about 30 minutes of the wailing, I made a decision to call her bluff.  Instead of increasing the scholarship to 75%, she would have to play her junior year on the same half scholarship.  I wasn’t surprised she didn’t quit basketball.  Her senior year, she played a important role on our conference tournament championship team.

If I was asked why how a player could get more playing time, I always had the same answer, “Get better than the player in front of you.”  Sure they could improve in certain areas, but that’s the simple truth to playing time.  That doesn’t always satisfy parents.

At Doane College, I had a player that was a starter at the start of the year and faded to a little used substitute by February.  I had heard she was a big partier, but so was 80% of my team.  The key is to learn to slow down if it effected your play.  This player and her parents didn’t believe any of that fact.

They accused me of taking her out of the line-up for drinking when other drinkers played many more minutes than their daughter.  All that was true, except their daughter didn’t slow down and it had a terrible effect on her play.  She transferred out of Doane that spring, absolutely sure I had singled her out for drinking.

Sometimes, parents have an unrealistic picture of their kid’s talents.  The biggest example was a high school junior at Wilber-Clatonia High School.  I had an All State post player that averaged over 20 points per game.

Another girl in the same class was a good role player, but had only average skills.  Her dad was convinced I was the reason she only averaged four points per game.  He told me, “If you let my girl shot as much as your post player, she could average 20 points, too.”  He carried that around her junior and senior seasons.

Sometimes, the kid can overcome a parent with unrealistic expectations.  Early in her senior season, a team put a triangle and two defense on my post players.  The other players needed to pick up the slack, but this girl was having a bad shooting night.  I put in a junior for the senior.  The junior scored 12 points and the team won by about that margin.

After the game, the dad was furious.  Even though we won, he screamed at me he would have his girl quit.  I went to the locker room and sat with his daughter.  I explained what had happened.  I’ll never forget what she told me, “Don’t worry coach, I’ll take care of my dad.”

That girl hit a 20 foot shot for our first points in the state championship game, which we won.  As the season went along, we nicknamed long shots after that player.  Sometimes, it isn’t father knows best.  Thank goodness I had players that could overcome their parents’ slanted opinions.

It’s not easy being a parent.  Boy, am I finding that out.


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