Parents, and the relentless pursuit of athletic scholarships, can cause a difficult environment for high-school coaches to survive in. And many have decided it’s not worth the effort.
Kyle Gray knows basketball.
But in a crowded conference room on a sweltering July afternoon in Yakima, no one attending a clinic seemed to care about that. They wanted to know only one thing from the Edmonds Community College men’s basketball coach: How do you deal with parents?
The troubling stories seem endless. Some recent examples:
• In August, the parents of Los Altos (Calif.) High senior Robbie Lopez filed suit against his baseball coach for being repeatedly benched during games.
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• In April, Kristen McDonnell, a high-school girls basketball coach in Braintree, Mass., resigned after eight years “with a very heavy heart” after citing troubles with parents despite a recent 63-game win streak (she returned in July).
• And last year, parents from five Cascade Conference schools influenced their football coaches to forfeit games against Archbishop Murphy due to safety concerns, putting the Everett private school in the national spotlight.
“It can be a mine field for coaches,” said Gray, who has 14 years of experience coaching girls and boys sports on all levels.
The July gathering in Yakima was Gray’s first clinic on helping peers manage the parent-coach relationship as part of the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association’s Coaches School.
More than player talent and facilities, parents and their behavior toward coaches might be the biggest factor in the success of a high-school sports programs, according to those interviewed for this story. And what’s driving this divide between parents and coaches? Many say it’s the push to land athletic scholarships.
“I know so many coaches who have just stopped coaching because of the parents,” Gray said. “And parents who get upset with coaches, pull their kid and go somewhere else.
“It kills me because I know some of these coaches are really quality people and good coaches that could be out there. I teach in Seattle Public Schools and see the long list of coaching jobs that are open every year, and it’s usually the same schools.”