I'm writing this article due in part to a couple of incidents which took place this past summer involving High School hockey head coaches on the east coast.
All of which were based on parents rush to judgement and their demands to unseat the teams head coach because they were upset about their kids playing time or assumed treatment on the ice. In an effort to appease the rush to judgement and not offend anybody, the coaches jobs were terminated immediately without due process.The first story:
This coach was fired because a parent complained he was too hard on his kid with abusive behavior and degrading him verbally, the coach was exonerated several months later after an investigation proved the complaints were unfounded Milford CT: 24yr Coach Fired, Then Re-HiredThe second story, (most recent):
This coach was fired because a parent or parents accused him of recruiting and ignoring players within the school system who already played for the hockey club but were refused selection to the varsity squad. It only took 24hrs for him to be exonerated and allowed to return to his position Downingtown East HS protest
Have things changed so dramatically over the past 30 years since my youth that it's at a a point where coaches cannot coach anymore? Some view their kids teams coaching philosophy or approach to instruction as too demanding, demeaning and abusive. While others see favoritism, unfair treatment and bullying, but is it? Is accountability, responsibility and constructive criticism now considered offensive and degrading treatment of players in youth sports?Preface:
I'll start by recalling a few memories from my youth hockey experience as a member of the Council Rock Indians Varsity hockey program in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. The time was 1987 to 1992. I started playing JV in 7th grade and quickly moved up to swing in 8th, by 9th grade I was playing varsity exclusively. My coach was what could be termed as "tough". Most of the players didn't like him, similarly many parents couldn't stand him. Why you ask? Because he had expectations, and it was assumed that if you made his hockey team, you had a responsibility to work hard in order to maintain your job. Our teams during this run won 3 Flyers cup championships, (the highest honor for high school hockey in South Eastern PA.) and 2 state championships while almost always clinching 1st place in the SHSHL, (Suburban High School Hockey League). Our coach used profanity, in fact we often thought that was the only vocabulary he knew. He threatened players with cutting ice time and even cutting them from the team if they didn't perform the way he expected them to. He threw water bottles, sticks and screamed like you wouldn't believe. He'd bang his head against the glass if we did drills wrong, he'd whack you in the skates and even push you around to prove a point about execution of plays. Did we hate it? Damn right we did but to this day as I look back I see his approach as one of discipline. He expected his players to be level headed and determined with only one goal and that was to win. I laugh about it today but looking back I see he taught us how to respect each other not only on the ice but off of it as well. He taught all of us to be accountable for our actions when we performed, if we made mistakes he corrected them independently with the player and as a team together. If we lost games and one person was responsible for losing because of a bad play, we did wind sprints together before we'd practice until every player understood what his responsibility was to fix what didn't work. If somebody was goofing off during practice, the entire team was punished with wind sprints and boards. In the end our teams over those years and beyond produced a number of successful collegiate hockey players. For us, (the wife and I) we expect that same type of coaching instruction with our kids. We tell the coaches not to sugar coat anything with our boys and our boys we believe have become better players and better people because of it. They have no problem with being accountable as responsible teenagers.
Can coaches no longer be coaches, but instead have to be their players best friend and biggest fan? Is expecting accountability and responsibility now considered crossing the line, or has it been and I just haven't noticed?