In Coaching: Good/Bad/Unfair, Problems in Youth Sports

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, sports fans and wannabe’s, and of course fellow coaches, I want to welcome you all to tonight’s, annual, COACH OF THE YEAR Awards ceremony. As we do every year, we will select that one person who we feel best embodies what it means to be a winning coach, that one individual who has done more for coaching and to shape young lives than any other in his profession.

Our two finalists need no introductions, but to be truthful, I’m not quite sure why one is even in the running, given his less than stellar track record, but I’ll let you be the judge of that. Put your hands together for Harry Champion and Michael Milktoast! (Enthusiastic applause!)

Now a little background information on our finalists: Mr. Champion, as we all know, is a proven winner. His teams have won league championships every season he has ever coached! These same teams have gone on to garner Regional and even National honors. In fact, just this past season, Mr. Champion’s 12 & under “Ass-Kickers” won their third consecutive National Championship! My little 9 year old played for C’s National Championship squad a year or so back and I can’t tell you, I’ve never been prouder in my life when they won that final game. I just feel a little sad that my boy won’t play the game anymore. I have to say I’m a bit confused about that one, But, HEY! That’s a different story!

Where was I? Oh yeah, Coach C’s no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners, there’s-no-crying-in-sports style has truly distinguished him as a leader of today’s youth. He obviously understands the value of competitive youth sports in teaching kids how to win and that winning helps shape tomorrow’s leaders. Let’s hear it for Mr. Champion! (deafening applause!)

Coach Milktoast’s background is surprising and quite ordinary at best. Actually, he’s never won any major championships. His teams have consistently finished in the middle of, or at the bottom of the pack. Although once they finished in third place. I think there were only 5 teams in the league that year. To be honest, folks, I’m not at all sure how Mr. Milktoast even made tonight’s finals, No offense Coach M! In fact, it sure seems that Coach M spends far too much of his valuable time with his players practicing skills and technique rather than competing in tournaments. Because of this, his record is limited at best.

I just don’t get how Coach M thinks that these young kids who he’s in charge of shaping are supposed to get any valuable competitive experience when all they’re doing is wasting so much time going over the mechanics and strategies of the game ad nauseam! Of course, I don’t mean to be unfairly biasing the judging panel here tonight. I’m just calling it the way that I see it!

Now we feel it’s important to present the whole story of both of our finalists and not just the good stuff. You know, we can’t just talk about their strengths without addressing their weaknesses. So let’s start with our own champion, Coach C:

Well, of course, over the years Coach C has run into his share of detractors. But you know, there’s always jealousies and trouble makers on every team, especially when the team is so successful and high powered like the “Ass-Kickers.” So occasionally there have been a few minor, relatively benign complaints about Coach C’s unfairness around playing time. You know, there are always parents who cause a lot of trouble on every team. But hey, that stuff happens with a lot of coaches and Coach C’s philosophy is clear. This may be 10 and under or 12 and under ball, but we are committed to fielding only the best players. If that means you don’t get enough PT, then you need to either get yourself better or suck it up and stop your whining!

As a close friend of Coach C, I know that he knows what it really takes to bring home that championship. This is serious business we’re talking about here and you don’t get to the kind of winning record that C owns with a lot of fun, silly games and mamby-pambying the players.

And I also know that there has been some very unfair criticism aimed at Coach C over the years for the way that he handles his team’s failures and mistakes. So he gets a little heated at times. Yes, I’ll admit it! He even yells at his players sometimes….and sometimes a lot! But I know and I want you good people to know that this is always for their own good. If coach C didn’t yell at them when they messed up, how are they supposed to learn that making mistakes and failing is just unacceptable. If he didn’t yell, those kids would just end up embracing mediocrity and we can’t have that! As a leader of young men and women, Coach C gets this! Plus, in his words, “yelling toughens them up! It makes them mentally tougher,” NO QUESTION!

Now, in support of Coach C, over the years some of his players have indeed quit on him. Well, actually quite a few now that I think about it. Gee, I wonder if my boy quit? No! He just didn’t want to play anymore! But don’t let that detract from C’s excellent coaching and winning record. Remember, the man gets the job done! He wins and this above all else is what’s important! The fact of the matter is that Coach C is quite skilled at weeding out the weak, uninspired kids who have no athletic potential. These kids who left his teams were most likely losers to begin with. They weren’t that good athletically, most were terribly uncoordinated, so Coach C was simply doing them and their parents, and the league a favor by helping them see their shortcomings and getting them out of the loop! You know, encouraging them to embrace other activities outside of sports.

But before we get to the many shortcomings of Coach Milktoast, and they are MANY, let me just add one final thing about Coach Champion. The man flat out commands respect from his players! His athletes, to a man, respect and worship the ground that he walks on. Now I know that some trouble-making parents and some off-the-wall umpires and misguided league officials have complained about C’s bullying tactics with these young kids, claiming that he coaches through fear and that it has nothing to do with respect. Personally, I think they’re all just a bit jealous of Coach C’s success. My son was never really afraid of Coach C. He just was a little worried about making mistakes whenever he played for the man.

As far as Coach Milktoast’s shortcomings go, what can I say? The man has had a consistent losing record. He’s never sent any players to the all-star team. He’s never been a contender. He’s rumored to be a bit of a “spaghetti spine” in that he actually listens to his players feelings and their parents’ concerns and then responds to them. Coach C was never so weak-willed in that way. When he spoke, everyone shut up and listened or else!

Coach M is also one of these soft guys who believes in babying his players, always being positive and building up their self-esteem instead of tearing it down to make them stronger. I know that he offers good critical feedback, I have to give him this, but if you don’t really call a player out when they’ve screwed up and you’re constantly giving them all of this positive garbage, how are you supposed to build character and toughness in them?

It is true that Coach M never yells at his players and that they adore him, but what do you expect when you make practice fun and you waste time trying to make kids feel good about themselves? So maybe this is why Coach M is so popular and that everyone enjoys playing for him. It’s funny, now that I think about it, my boy asked me if he could play for Coach M after he quit Coach C’s team. Of course, I wouldn’t let him do that! That would be a waste of all of Coach Champion’s hard work with my son!

Coach Milktoast apparently doesn’t know anything about winning! I do have to give the man one thing though. It seems that Coach M is unusually lucky in finding kids who end up realizing their potential. It is true that a large number of kids who played for Coach M went on to play the sport in high school and then college. I heard many of them say that was because of Coach M’s influence, but seriously people, sounds to me like the luck of the draw. Coach Champion rarely had any of these kinds of lucky breaks where his superstars continued in the game. Many seemed to abandon the man’s fine coaching and pick up another sport. I’m totally baffled by that one!

So in closing, I hope it’s pretty obvious tonight who should be our Coach of the Year. Just ask yourself, if you’re an athlete, “who would you want to be playing for”? If you’re a parent, ask yourself “who would you want your son or daughter playing for?” The right answer should just pop up and hit you over the head!


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