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Parents need to get out of coaches' way

Homestead's Hines latest casualty after three years

April 25, 2012

The world is a difficult, highly competitive place where fairness and equity don't always rule.

So a word to well-meaning parents about their kids, high school sports and what they might learn from their time involved. Overwhelmingly, you people love your kids to pieces and try to prepare them for life's inevitable challenges as best as possible.

So do them a favor. Try to do some, if not all, of the following:

Remember that the sports experience is your child's, not yours.

Let your children be challenged by strong coaches who will yell at them sometimes and tell them what they are doing wrong and what they need to do to get better. If you trust the coach, then believe the coach and stay the heck out of the way. Think hard before grabbing your phone and screaming at one.

I have no children, but I have worked with coaches for close to 30 years and more than 99.99 percent of the them have your son's or daughter's best interest at heart, and they're trying to make them better every day.

Tell your kids that sometimes, no matter how hard you work, no matter how well you are drilled, there is just going to be someone better, and you are going to get beat. It's not the coach's fault, it's not the officials' fault. It's just life. Accept it, move on, try to get even better so it doesn't happen again.

Be a good sport about losing. It happens to everyone. I see kids handle losing graciously all the time. I wish more adults did.

Correspondingly, teach your kids not to accept mediocrity; go for the medal, not the ribbon.

Expanding on those points:

Just because you spent hundreds and/or thousands of dollars for camps and lessons since they were in third grade doesn't automatically mean your child should be handed a starting varsity spot. You have to earn such things.

Along those lines, there are usually no grand rewards for being the good soldier off the bench as an upperclassman, but there are intangible emotional and mental rewards for persevering and trying over and over again.

They gain an inner strength from knowing that they have given their best, and in some small way have helped their team get better in the long run. That kind of knowledge will help them in college and in their first job and in the many other challenges they face in life.

Just because you have coached Little League, or AAYFL or a select basketball team doesn't automatically make you smarter than your son's or daughter's varsity coach. These coaches aren't paid much and have, in many cases, spent many years preparing to coach your child, have them enjoy the experience, impart a meaningful life lesson or two and win a few games in the process.

You should encourage and praise this person because they genuinely believe in the value of human potential.

But a lot of coaches these days are not encouraged or valued, and it's a trend that's been getting worse over the past 10 to 15 years. No matter how successful the coach in terms of wins or losses, no matter how long his or her tenure in the current position, no matter how many alumni come back and give stirring testimonials about the positive influence the coach had, they are always being criticized.

The days of the coach retiring after 20 or 30 seasons with a gold watch and a pat on the back are long gone. You're lucky if you get them to last 10 years, in any sport. Their pressures are just too numerous to mention.

Sense of entitlement

In short, there is a sense of entitlement out there that is beginning to ruin prep sports. It's just part of the reason why Marquis Hines, he of three state championships as girls coach at Milwaukee Vincent and of an impressive 18-5 record with a youthful Homestead boys team this season, resigned last week and will not be returning to the Highlanders for what would have been probably a truly impressive third season.

It just got to be too much, he said.

Yes, Hines admits he yells at kids. Yes, he admits that he demands a lot from them.

But, no, he emphatically denies that he ever laid hands on a player (as claimed by online commentators), openly recruited players (a story that has been circulating since the moment he was hired) or played favorites. But apparently, not enough people believed him.

"Honestly, I have by and large enjoyed these past two years," he said. "My staff doesn't get enough credit, but we've been dealing with stuff (backlash of one sort or another) since Day One. I'm not sure what they want out here (in terms of a coach), but I'm not really here to speak negatively about these people.

"That being said, I am a straight shooter with my kids. It's how I've been successful. I will tell the kid exactly what he or she needs to get to the next level."

His Highlanders were exciting and fun to watch this season. His players played with energy and life, but it came at a cost.

I'm not going to sit here and claim to know everything about the situation and say that Hines was a saint. No successful coach worth his or her salt is. But to win in sports, to win in life, you have to be able to sacrifice your own ego. You have to be willing to fall sometimes and then get up.

Turning program around

It had been a long time since Homestead basketball had fallen, and it's taken awhile for it to get back up. A lot of that was due to Hines' effort, and it will be missed, but as he noted, unrealistic expectations seeped into the situation.

"It was hard for someone to step up and stand up to some of these parents," he said. "They expected their kids to play college ball but they weren't aware of what it really takes to do that. And I'm not sure that that's going to get better soon (at Homestead or in the culture as a whole).

"My dad always told me that if the coach wasn't playing me, then it must be something that I was doing wrong. I hope I never go to a coach (concerning his own children) with a complaint."

Hines said he had close to 40 calls after his resignation last week, almost all of them very supportive. He will move on and likely coach again.

It will be Homestead's loss.

"I have good people in my corner," he said. "I won't lose sleep over this because I know what I represent."

Which is a coach working hard, trying to get the job done.

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