What does a coach do when his players talk back to him, ignore his game instructions and can’t be on time for practice? Most coaches today would grumble, but accept it as part of dealing with modern youth. Coach Mike Allen suspended his starting five players instead.
Allen took over coaching the boys’ basketball team at Gunderson High School in San Jose last year. He believes in discipline and respect, but he didn’t find much of those qualities among the players on his team. Instead, he found lousy attitudes and a lack of commitment.
He gave the players on the team “two, three, four chances” to correct their shortcomings, but nothing changed. Allen said the players continued to talk back to him, ignore his instructions during games and “showboat” on the court. So he suspended the starters. Shortly afterwards, the rest of the team confronted him, demanding that he reinstate the suspended players. When he refused, all 13 members of the team quit.
“I refused to win at all costs,” Allen told the San Jose Mercury News. “I knew I needed to take a stand or it wasn’t going to be a worthwhile season.”
After he lost his entire team, he called up players from the junior varsity team. He’s now playing a varsity schedule with just six underaged and unprepared players. The team has a 3-16 — and all three of the wins came from before the suspensions. In many games, the young players are being blown out. They finished one game with just four players, after two of them fouled out.
The school administration has supported Allen, but some parents and students clearly don’t understand what the issues are. What’s worse, it’s clear that the former players don’t understand what they did wrong. One of the former players complained to the Mercury News that the coach wanted to run the team his way.
“We weren’t being that disrespectful,” said former player Eddie Perez. “He wants to run the team his way and doesn’t listen to our own opinions.”
So he knows the players were being disrespectful, but it wasn’t that disrespectful, huh? How much disrespect is allowed before a coach or adult in a leadership role has to teach kids that respect is required? For his part, Allen believes that attitude is symptomatic of a larger problem today.
“These kids nowadays feel they are privileged and have a right,” Allen said, “but they fail to realize what being part of a team is about.”
The attitudes the players exhibit seem to be what happens when you send kids through a school system that teaches them more about their own worth than about respect and being held accountable. It seems as though our society has been moving for decades toward teaching kids that everybody wins, everybody gets his way and that there are no consequences to bad actions.
We need more men and women like Allen, not just as coaches, but as parents, teachers and leaders of all sorts. We need adults who love the kids as much as Allen clearly does, but who are dedicated to doing what’s best for them in the long run, not just making them happy for the moment. That requires learning to face mistakes and deal with consequences.