Wanting to coach again is like being in love with someone I'm not married to

posted by Jeff | Monday, December 1, 2014, 6:42 PM | comments: 0

Late last year, I looked into coaching volleyball again, in a USAV capacity, and while I did the paperwork and everything, I quickly changed my mind. The problem here in Orange County is that, unlike most of Ohio, there's one big school district with giant high schools of three or four thousand kids, and not a lot of kids playing volleyball. All of OC has I think fewer than a dozen high schools, whereas the Cleveland area probably has a hundred.

The long and short of it is that there are very few clubs, and the one I was talking to acts more as a factory than anything else. It's a giant assembly line intended to get a few people paid, and that sucks. The more I understood that, the less I wanted to be involved.

Then today, a friend of mine posted a photo circulating on Facebook that summed up the biggest problem in youth sports:

"Your child's success or lack of success in sports does not indicate what kind of parent you are. But having an athlete that is coachable, respectful, a great teammate, mentally tough, resilient and tries their best IS a direct reflection of your parenting."

Back in the day, you certainly had parents at the high school level who were a pain in the ass. After all, the pool of candidates for your high school team isn't going to be that deep. We were largely isolated from this in club ball, because you were getting a better choice among kids from many schools. Not only that, but by the time the kids were 14 or 15, you knew which kids weren't a good fit, or which parents had a reputation.

My last club season was in 2006. It was unfortunately an 18's team, with all of the baggage that goes with that. They were good kids, but only a few of them were really motivated to learn. It was not an ideal season. In late 2010 I signed up to coach with a Seattle club, but things had changed. The parents were trying to micromanage careers of kids that were never going to play beyond high school. In the end, we couldn't keep enough kids to make a team, and I lost the chance to coach. I blame the club director to an extent, because he was just as much a party to the games the parents were playing as the parents themselves. It was so disappointing.

So you have this ugly situation now where the scene is too small here in Central Florida, and on top of that, it has been poisoned with all of the bullshit that makes coaching kids suck. I'm convinced that, short of opening my own club, I would hate getting into it again. I'm not sure if everything that I loved about coaching is even attainable anymore.

It's not impossible to enjoy it with toxic parents. Even though the parents didn't see it this way, I still believe the high school team I had at The Elms in Akron was an enormous success story. Those kids from that tiny school (literally 10% of the school played volleyball) played against, and defeated much bigger schools with much bigger kids. When they were on, it was like watching magic. This from a group that a year earlier was taught to do the "W" on serve receive. I'm definitely proud of many of the individual kids I had in my club seasons, but that team made impossible progress that makes me smile whenever I think about it. This, despite the fact that three or four of the parents were total assholes about everything. Fortunately it didn't rub off on their kids.

Still, it's emotionally exhausting to fight the wave of entitlement and lack of work ethic when little Sally is led to believe she can do no wrong. The greatness of my best kids wasn't achieved by way of trophies or titles, it was achieved by getting exponentially better at their sport, and so much of that in volleyball is the ability to coexist with other kids and thrive. One person, a coach, can't lay that foundation... it takes parents to go along for the ride.


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