ARTICLE #28: Measure of a Coach

Measure coach's impact on lives of athletes

  • Jan 3, 2020

Fourteen years ago, I broke into coaching with aspirations of being a great leader, mentor, and strategist. I wanted to help mold and shape the lives of individuals through sports to help prepare them for future endeavors.

I was told from the beginning that everyone in the stands was “an expert coach.” Those words have never been as true as they are now, 14 years later.

As Lewisburg School District did not retain their baseball coach, they add themselves to a long list of schools that continue to adhere to the pressure of parents and school boards. Danville and Bloomsburg began their search for new football coaches weeks ago, as have many other schools with coaches from a variety of sports. Too often, it only takes a few parents to change the culture of a program and end the tenure of the coach.

What is most disappointing is the lessons we teach members of these teams. When kids aren’t starters or don’t make the varsity squad, it is always the coach’s fault. Kids don’t have the fortitude to look in the mirror and decide to work harder nor do parents have the difficult conversation with their child that they need to simply improve if they want to play. Instead, it’s the coach’s fault.

What lesson does that teach the next generation? When things are hard, we should blame others? Just quit and go somewhere else? What happened to a time when kids would “roll up their sleeves” and work harder?

My concern really lies for the future. What happens when these athletes have a boss who is being hard on them? Will their mom and dad call the company? Will they quit each job until they find one that is easier for them?

Coaches spend countless hours preparing these kids for each game, meet and match. They give up their summers, holiday vacations, and family time to help mold these kids; not just for their respective sport, but for their futures. Yet, all of these hopes, dreams, and aspirations can be dashed in an instant when disgruntled parents march into the athletic director’s office or school board meeting.

It is disheartening how little support these coaches get from the administration when only a few parents voice frustration. How bad is the problem? Ask your local athletic director how many applications they get for each coaching vacancy. I guarantee the number will be in single digits. Seasoned and experienced coaches do not want to dive into situations where they know their tenure could come to an end at the drop of a hat.

So, how do we fix the problem?

Parents, help develop your child. Cheer for the team. Support the coach. Help continue to build and develop the culture that each coach is trying to foster. Have difficult conversations with your kids and encourage them to work harder. Not just at practice, but when no one else is watching. Yes, that means hours outside of practice.

Athletes, simply, put in the work. We live in a culture of instant gratification. Too many people think things should be handed to them. If our athletes put in the amount of time outside of practice to refine their skills as they do playing video games, watching television, or listening to music, imagine how good they would be!

Administration, support your coaches. Allow them to grow, develop, and improve. At the end of the day, all of these coaches are trying to develop these young men and women; please allow them to do the same as a coach.

Coaching is a difficult profession where each coach is defined as a success or failure based on wins or losses. There are so many great coaches who choose not to follow this path because of the negativity that surrounds each coaching position. As we move forward, it’s time to offer the same support to our coaches as we do our athletes. Instead of only measuring the value of a coach by how many tallies there are in the win column, focus on how many lives they have impacted in a positive way.

Aaron Ettinger has coached sports in the Valley for 14 years, including the last five at Susquehanna University. He lives in Selinsgrove.