baseball ethics, coaches and trust, fathers and sons, Uncategorized

Coaches Are Not Kings—And Some Kings Have More Humility

Here are a few excerpted passages from an email that online coach Paul Reddick sent around this past week:

Don’t say the wrong thing and blow it for your kid.
No more confusion about what to say.
No more wondering if you’re gonna say the right things.
No more worrying about saying the wrong things.

This is for parents and players who want to know the right way to talk to Coaches, Scouts and Recruiters.
You’ll learn how to get attention from coaches, scouts and recruiters.

PLUS: You’ll learn how to not sound like an amateur.
You’ll know what to say, how to say it and when to say it.
You’ll know what questions coaches will ask you and what questions you should be asking the coaches.
With this Masterclass, you’ll have an unfair advantage over every other parent that coach is going to talk with.

P.S. I hate to say that I have seen parents and players blow it with coaches by saying the wrong thing, but I have. It’s cringe worthy.
Don’t let that happen to you.

Now, I like Paul Reddick: that’s why I’m on his mailing list. Furthermore, the point I’m trying to draw from the missive above isn’t that Coach Paul “is at it again, doing anything for a buck”. (The pitch being made, by the way, is an offer—and a really good offer—for tutorial on how to talk to coaches.)

No, my problem is with the fact that coaches need to be addressed in some special manner. When Reddick teased this same package a few weeks earlier (and I regrettably no longer have that email), he drew a more poignant picture of a kid who gets cut from his high school team just because Dad dared to approach El Supremo and didn’t use the right words. My own son didn’t suffer this fate, but I’ve known boys who have. These are true stories, and the coaching world offers far, far too many examples of them.

In the first place, as a career educator myself, I’m outraged at the proposition that a parent might enter a conference with a teacher tormented by the thought that the child could be failed if words didn’t come out right. If I, as a teacher, were to treat a child punitively for remarks made by a parent, then I should be fired from my job, unceremoniously, and not given a reference. I would be a disgrace to my profession.

Why is a high school coach any different, or even a college coach? Why must their royal displeasure not be stirred, lest the executioner’s sword fall upon a child’s neck? These stories are reminiscent of Herodotus’s about the behavior of the Persian kings.

In the second place, even if the parent’s “talk” with Coach is obnoxiously confrontational or lecturing (“You’re not using him right—he’s never played third base. And he’d hit better if you’d bat him higher in the order!”), why should an adult professional have any difficulty fielding the proper answer? “I’m sorry you feel that way. But this is my job, and I have to do it as I think fit.” Owners of restaurants or car dealerships or shoe stores all have to handle the occasional irate and irrational customer. What is it about the coaching profession that should insulate its practitioners from any such unpleasant run-in?

And why on earth would that “professional” proceed to take his irritation out on a person who had nothing to do with the unpleasantness? If you are a professional, Coach, then don’t attempt to show it by claiming some locker-room version of Papal Infallibility. Demonstrate your superior understanding by sizing up the talent at your disposal and making good use of it. If Leroy has the makings of a good third-baseman but also a really annoying father… well, so make him a good third-baseman. What’s the problem? The father should have nothing to do with it. What kind of jerk are you, that you’re determined to punish the father by depriving the team of its best answer at a key defensive position?

This whole subject makes my blood boil. Particularly when I’ve had so much personal experience of coaches who do not know their trade as well as they ought—turning weak hitters into weaker hitters, ruining young pitchers’ arms, shattering players’ confidence with sarcasm and contradictory instructions—I should think a little humility would be a requirement for the job. Instead, too many coaches seem determined to hide the limits of their competence behind a wall of intimidation. You do what they say, unquestioningly… or you die. You clean out your locker and disappear.

This kind of behavior is neither professional, nor morally responsible, nor functionally adult. It disgusts me. And that one should need a crash course to address figures within the professions because so many of them appear to behave in just this way is a black eye on the game of baseball.