Here I am retired from coaching for five years and just learning a very valuable lesson. I’ve just discovered its very tough being a parent. I suspected it might be, but until recently I never really knew how tough.
During all those 39 years of coaching, I thought it was the parents’ job to make my life miserable. You would have thought I would have just a glimpse into what those parents might have been going through.
I’m not letting the parents off the hook. Many of you out there made my life miserable, angry night in and night out that you couldn’t see why I didn’t play your daughter enough minutes. Sometimes I was accused of raising my voice to a player or possibly using a word not found in the Webster dictionary. I have just one thing to say, “Guilty.”
Matt Houchin, the offensive coordinator on the very successful Maryville football team, is always apologizing to me. Sam is a football manager and hangs around Coach Houchin, especially at games. Matt thinks maybe he uses too colorful language around Sam.
I’m always reminding Matt that women’s basketball coaches aren’t angels with perfect use of the English language. Sam has hung around me for many of the final years of my coaching career. My fear is Sam could teach Coach Houchin some new colorful words.
Sometimes, trying to motivate players, the use of colorful language backfires. I had a point guard that had been under-performing. At halftime of one of her worst games, I suggested that she remove her head from a certain area of her body or we wouldn’t win the game.
It isn’t the first time I had used it, but it didn’t take long to get back to her father. I have never seen him so mad. I thought he could rattle off a little profanity himself, but he thought I had crossed the line. I’ve always used the philosophy that it’s better to be looked over than overlooked. There were about nine players in the room that wished they played enough to get yelled at.
Sometimes parents turn a blind eye. I now know how tough it is to be a parent. It’s tough being a coach when you know your players have problems. I’ve had bi-polar players, suicidal players, depressed players, players with eating disorders and players that were being abused by their boyfriends. That just scratches the surface. If the parents turn a blind eye, it’s not much fun for coaches or parents.
I do admire some parents that stood by their kid, suffered with their kid and enjoyed the success that only came with patience. The first player I ever recruited was a woman that grew up near Omaha. Her name is Dena Gosch. During Dena’s first three years, we all suffered through tough, losing seasons.
Dena’s mother was Kay Gosch. Her dad was Denny a great guy, but Kay was the character in the family. I know Kay suffered along with Dena. Dena always was a starter and played a lot of minutes, but the losing was difficult.
It all turned around when Dena was a senior. The team won close games early and really took off. We won the regular season conference championship and won the district championship. As the wins piled up, Kay set up parent get-togethers after every home game.
No matter how far you traveled to the game, families just didn’t miss one of these post game parties. I was required to attend, although many parents would rather I didn’t, but I didn’t get on Kay’s bad side.
Finally, the District 9 championship game was played in Crete. Kay was in rare form. She had the victory celebration all set up. Even the Doane band was going to play. That was very unusual. I couldn’t call it a pep band because the band set up at an open end and set up like a concert band.
Just before the game, the director had the band pack up and leave the building. They hadn’t played a note. As my team was warming up, I asked the director what was wrong. He told me his flute had failed to show up. He couldn’t possible play without the flute player.
We did win that game. At Kay’s organized celebration, she asked why the band had left. I told her the story and you could see the fire in her eyes. Within a month, the band director was fired by the president.
No one ever found out why but I knew. I was also very thankful Kay didn’t go after me during those first three miserable years.
It was about then that I began to appreciate parents that could suffer with their child and the patience to wait for any success. With that thought, I have to bring up two of my absolute favorite families, Charlie and Mary Uldrich and Bob and Shirley Melton. Their daughters were both shooting guards in the same class at Doane College.
Tracee Uldrich had a lot of physical obstacles to overcome. After a learning freshmen year, Tracee blew out both knees with ACL surgeries needed. Coming back for her red-shirt sophomore year started slow. When she didn’t play in a 42-point loss to Wayland Baptist, her dad told her she should see the writing on the wall.
Tracee stuck it out and by the end of her sophomore year, she was starting. She hit the winning shot in overtime when we beat Wayland Baptist the next year.
Tracee was one of the captains of the school’s first ever appearance in the Final Four. My favorite moment with Charlie had nothing to do with winning or losing. Charlie, who had to suffer through those knee surgeries, was brought to tears.
Tracee’s sister came to play at Doane, mostly as a volleyball player, but played basketball her freshman year. It’s tough being a two-sport athlete in college and I could tell it would be her only year out for basketball.
About in the middle of the season, an opportunity presented itself, where I could get both Tracee and her sister in the game together. Charlie was still tearful when I met him after the game. It was one of the few times I was able to give back to a parent that meant that much.
The Melton’s were just as great of parents as the Uldrich’s. Their daughter, Gina, didn’t play near as much as Tracee and went into her senior season without a start. However, that all changed when Gina found her niche.
Gina was right-handed but had a devastating left-hand drive. In one game, Gina scored the final 10 points in an upset win over Washburn, who was ranked number 1 in NCAA II.
Sadly, Gina’s season ended in the last regular season game. While doing a lay-up drill in the pre-game warm-ups, Gina twisted her knee, tearing her ACL.
I really thought that would be the last game for Bob and Shirley, but I was wrong. They followed the team, even when we went to play in the NAIA National Tournament in Oregon.
I was lucky enough to have these two great families and two great student/athletes. Tracee now coaches women’s basketball at Doane and Gina is a fantastic teacher in the Crete Elementary school. These two keep in contact with their old coach and I can’t wait to see them and their families when I come back to Doane.
I’m not trying to say there was a happy ending for every coach-parent situation. Sam will enter his senior year trying to learn new words from Matt Houchin as the football manager.
He will try to help Matt Stoecklein keep a happy bench as he plays on the boy’s basketball team. Sam will try to impress Monica Woods enough to gain addition innings in baseball. It’s tough being a parent but I hope for a happy ending.