Well, it’s happened again. And chances are it’s happening somewhere close to wherever you live, too.
Another coach in small-town America was not re-hired by the school district’s school board.
At this point, I could go all sorts of ways with this post:
- Why school boards are the most ridiculous thing in the world of education
- How small-town politics overwhelm the good things in those towns
- How things like this can happen anywhere, not just in small towns
- Why coaching is not all it’s cracked up to be, even though I still call it the greatest profession
However, I won’t cover any of those. Or maybe, I will actually touch on all of those in some way.
Rather, my focus is going to be on how ridiculous it is that good coaches who are trying to do the right things and create great experiences for ALL kids get maligned for selfish reasons by kids, parents, community members and school board members.
Tried to Do the Right Things
I don’t know for sure if the coach I am talking about was a good coach. I never saw her coach.
But I do know that she worked really hard to be a good coach. Over the last couple of years, after I spoke at her school to coaches, athletes, and parents on character-based athletics/coaching, team-building, and leadership concepts, she reached out to me numerous times for guidance and help with her coaching.
She joined my Fast Track Lab for New Coaches a couple of years ago, even though she had been a coach in years past. However, she had been out of coaching for a little while, so she was looking for some new ideas and ways to become a coach of significance in kids’ lives, one who could provide kids the opportunity for a positive athletic experience.
She took my “Your Coaching Journey” online course and was faithful about watching all of the videos and completing the exercises in support of them.
And she emailed, called, or texted me every so often with questions, concerns, or great news about her players’ growth, development, and joy.
She was a high school girls’ basketball coach. Her team was not a good team in any sense of the word when she took over the program. They hadn’t won very much for quite some time. More importantly, they were not a “team.” There were cliques, petty jealousies, and insidious little groups all looking out for their own interests ahead of the team’s interests.
When she was hired to be the head coach, nobody had applied for the position (Gee, I wonder why!), so she decided to apply in order to help the girls who were interested in coming out for the team. A total of 11 girls went out for the team her first year.
They didn’t win very much that year. During that first year, some parental problems and difficult personalities started to emerge. She realized she needed to do some things differently in the future if she was going to turn things around. She realized that needed to start with herself – her focus, her style, and her methods.
The following summer is when I spoke at their school. Not long after that, she reached out to me for guidance and ideas. She wanted to be good, and she wanted her team to be good.
That year, though, they almost didn’t have a season. She called me in October to tell me that there were only five or six girls coming out for the team. The school was considering cancelling the program.
We talked about what she could do to encourage more girls to come out and get them excited about being in the program. She did a lot of recruiting and encouraging, and eventually, eight came out for the team. It was decided that they would only play a JV schedule that year because the majority of the girls were so young and inexperienced.
And so they went to work.
Creating a Culture
She immediately started working to institute a team culture based on core covenants and values, things that she and I discussed a lot early on. She worked hard to build people up and get them excited to be a part of it, and treat every member of the program with dignity and respect. She worked hard to make it a fun environment that the girls wanted to be a part of.
The girls loved it! They bought into the concepts she was trying to instill, creating excellent core values for the program to live by.
She stressed to them that they were laying a foundation for creating a culture that girls would want to be a part of in the future.
She told them that they might not win a lot of games that year, but they would be catalysts for the future success of the program. When they would come back and watch the successful teams of the future, they would know that they had started it all.
The girls bought in.
At the end of that season, having won a few games against JV opponents (and competing against some teams’ varsities because those schools didn’t want them beating their JV teams), there were some parents who thought they should have won more.
Seriously?!?! After what she did to even keep the program afloat, and parents are complaining about wins and losses? That was a huge red flag as to what she had gotten herself into.
There were also the few girls and their parents who didn’t like some other aspect of the way things went – usually something that didn’t have those girls being the center of attention in some way. So the girls pouted, or their parents complained to people.
However, she was focused on providing the girls a positive athletic experience.
She wasn’t worried about what some idiot parents were thinking, nor should she have been. Coaches can’t let the feelings of some misguided parents alter what the coaches are doing if they know they are doing the right things for the right reasons.
A New Year
Throughout this past year, she worked at developing her own skills as a coach. She studied, watched videos, read, and continued to reach out to me.
Yet, there were grumblings of unsupportive parents as they were about to embark upon the season. Due to Covid, she was not allowed to do open-gyms, workouts, or the team-building types of things that they had done the year before.
She tried to do some Zoom meetings, but those aren’t the same at building great team camaraderie that in-person, face-to-face meetings provide.
Still, once they began the season, eleven girls came out for the team, many of them younger players who she was excited to have and begin working with and establishing relationships with.
The season was an up-and-down affair in terms of wins-and-losses, with more losses than wins. It’s to be expected. They are still a young team, just learning what it means to be part of a team, in a highly competitive conference. It’s going to take some time.
And yet, they also had huge gains this year, took big strides, competed well against some of the best teams on their schedule, and even won their first playoff game! Things were looking up.
And then they weren’t.
Due to the entitlement and pettiness of a few girls and their moms, it’s over. The school board voted the other night not to re-hire her by a vote of 4-3.
Her superintendent and athletic director both recommended her to be re-hired, but four members of the board — people who have no training in education and no idea how to run a school — felt that they knew better how to run the school than the leaders they hired to run the school.
Many of you reading this may be formulating your own opinions of the situation with only the knowledge I have given you. I have formulated my opinion of the situation with only the information she has given to me. Obviously, there may be more to it than what I know.
But I do know that this coach had her heart in the right place. She was trying to provide kids the opportunity to have a fun, positive athletic experience, while teaching life lessons about effort, attitude, perseverance, determination, and overcoming odds and obstacles.
She worked to be a better version of herself to help teach her girls how to be better versions of themselves.
And after just three years, the most recent of which was a pandemic year, she is out.
It Happens All Too Often
Some of you may have read this and it brought back bad memories for you or memories of someone you know going through a similar situation. As I said at the start of this, something like it may be happening close to where you live. It happens all the time and not just in small towns.
Coaches trying to provide great experiences for kids are relieved of their duties because they didn’t win enough, some players and/or their parents have way too much power in their communities, the school board members are weak and will cave to any pressure from the public, or for any other of a number of reasons.
Are there coaches who should be relieved of their duties? Absolutely! There are far too many people in coaching positions who should not be doing so.
But the people who should be making those decisions are the administrations of the schools, not the school boards. And understand, I say that as someone who was not recommended to be re-hired as a head basketball coach years ago by an administrator. (Sure, it was a weak administrator who was new, listened to parents the same way too many school boards do, and was led by other poor administrators, but that is a topic for a different post!)
My point is that far too often the inmates are running the asylum.
A few loud parents or kids get to have way too big of a say in how things go for an entire school district. Whether they have money, or they are connected in some way to the leadership, or they just happen to be really vocal, pain-in-the-butt parents, they are given way more power than they deserve.
And then good people end up going through what this coach is going through.
Unfortunately, I see no end in sight to the lunacy that allows such things to happen.
How about you? Have you ever been through a similar situation, or do you know someone who has? Tell us about it in the comments below.