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

As an eighth grader, she was the best player in her position on the travel team. She was voted the starting catcher on the league’s All Star team. She was a positive, enthusiastic and vocal on-field leader. She was also talented at the plate, batting clean-up and leading her highly competitive travel team in batting average. So explain something to me: How is it possible that after high school try-outs the next year, (her freshman), which reflected a significantly lower level of softball, the high school coach cut her?

This woman, let’s call her Coach Q, had no explanation for the talented freshman other than “I have someone better in your position.” and “you can try out next year.” Are you kidding me? Are you out of your mind?

Here’s the facts. There was no one better in her position. Cutting this kid meant that “coach” Q was going to put several kids on the high school team who had actually been cut from the travel team that this young athlete had started for! Explain the reasoning and “judgment” behind that one for me! As an eighth grader this athlete had been playing alongside varsity high school juniors and seniors and more than holding her own with them. In fact, one of her teammates on the travel team had just signed with a D-1 college program and this eighth grader was in the same league as this college prospect.

When her father called the coach to ask for a reasonable explanation, Q had nothing intelligent to say to him. She could not provide any rational explanation to the father for why she and her team wouldn’t want a talented catcher and great hitter, or why she’d rather have instead, at least 7 lesser talented players. The very next year this player was approached by members of the team who told her that Coach Q really wanted her to try out. However, the athlete had struggled with health problems in the late winter and spring and so decided to not play her sophomore year. Instead, she waited until she felt better and played travel softball in the summer once her health had returned. Then, two weeks ago, as a junior, she again tried out for Q’s team. The result: Coach Q cut her again!

From what everyone was saying, it was clear that this recent cut was a “payback” for the catcher not deciding to play her sophomore year. Apparently Coach Q had a well known reputation as being mean, vindictive and self-serving.

Now I’m not naive. I know that in these kinds of situations there are always two sides to every story. However, in this case and, unfortunately, in many cases like it, what is going on is quite clear. This is not a situation where you have an athlete with no talent and an overblown perception of her ability. This is not a case of out-of-touch parents who have no perspective and think that their daughter is athletically the next coming of the Messiah. This is not a situation where the athlete is a major behavioral problem where her trouble-making easily trumps any talent that she might possess and bring to the team.

No, this is a simple case of a so-called adult, Coach Q, allowing her petty feelings, jealousies and ego to get in the way of her doing her job as a responsible, caring and sensitive educator. With her use of favorites, arbitrary decision-making and exclusionary behavior, Coach Q’s behavior is no different than that which you observe with preadolescent and adolescent girls who are mean, petty and cliqueish, who turn on certain other girls and savagely scape-goat them.Coaches like Q selfishly make the team about them, not about the athletes and as far as I’m concerned, this is shameful and inexcusable!


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