COMMENTARY: Grown-ups Acting Like Kids?

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EDITOR'S NOTE: The following letter was received via e-mail from someone who identifies themselves as the parent of a local youth football player. We are redacting information which would directly identify any of the parties involved, but publishing the letter with the hope that doing so might bring some resolution to the situation.

I am a parent of a boy that plays on the (XX-XX) year old football team in Cannon County. My son has played with this organization for several years now and instead of problems being resolved they only seem to be getting worse.

I understand that football is a sport and the object is to try and win games but at what cost? There are kids that sit on the sidelines at every game begging to play only to be ignored and the same thing happens at practices.

Now from what I understand this league was formed several years ago with the intent of introducing the kids of Cannon County to the sport of football and to teach kids at a younger age so that they would be better prepared when they started playing for the middle school and high school teams. But if the kids are just sitting on the sidelines, what are they learning?

Now I am very familiar with how a team sport works and I fully understand that some kids are better than others and will get more playing time than some but what if one of your star players gets hurt, what are you going to do then because the other boys are not going to understand what they are supposed to do if they get to go onto the field and will be extremely intimidated because they have not been out there before.

And before you blow this off thinking that I am just an upset parent of a kid that stands on the sidelines, I am not, my son plays a majority of the games but has been on the other side before and yes as a parent it is upsetting but I explained to him that when you are new you have to stand on the sidelines and watch what is going on and you will get your turn.

But it seems like for some of these kids their turn will not come and when you try to speak to the coaches about it they either ignore you or put the blame off onto a different coach and say that they are not in charge.

I understand that these men take time away from their jobs and their families to spend time coaching these kids and every parent should be grateful for this, I know I am, but when they decided to be coaches they knew what they were agreeing to take on and this should not be thrown up in a parents face when they attempt to speak to them.

Also, when you put yourself into that position you should know that at some point you are going to have to deal with a few upset parents and should be able to conduct yourself with some sort of dignity, even if the parents cannot do the same. The men that are coaching all have kids on the team and their kids are not the ones sitting on the sidelines so they do not understand where these parents are coming from. Everybody had to pay the same amount of money to sign their child up and each child should get the same amount of attention.

Now Saturday night at our game there were at least 9 kids on our team that did not get to play a single minute of the game even though 2 players were hurt and asked to come off the field but were told no and to get back into their positions. One of the coaches finally noticed this when there was 1 minute left on the play clock in the fourth quarter and told the kids that had not been on the field to raise their hands.

These poor boys stood there with their hands raised and 2 of them got to go onto the field only to be sent right back off by the 2 coaches on the field. This was the breaking point for several parents and one man finally decided to say something to the coaches and he was told to shut up because he was not a coach.

Another man started cursing at the coaches, which I agree should not be done in front of the children, and that's when the head coach, (name witheld), decided to pay attention to this and told the man he would have him escorted out if he did not stop and the man said that was fine because he was leaving.

At this point, he started arguing with several other parents about the way he coaches his team. He said that he fielded the best 11 kids on his team and that he was there to try and win and that anybody that did not like it could take their kid and leave.

One woman asked him who he answered to because she wanted to make a complaint about him and he said nobody and that he made all the rules.  He also stated that these kids only sign up to play football because of him and because they want to win.

Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news but if that was the case than (name withheld) and (name withheld) would not have a single child on the team because they have won 2 games in the last 2 years and have a losing season so far and if they were coaching on the college or professional level they would have been fired by now.

But the point is they are not on that level, they are dealing with very impressionable boys and at this age they should be teaching them fundamentals and if they happen to win then that is just a bonus.

I have been at every practice and every game since my son has started playing and so far the only thing that I have seen that these men have taught them are winning is everything, poor sportsmanship, and that if your dad is not a coach then you will be standing on the sidelines.
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August 30, 2010 at 12:06pm
We experienced this, and this is why our child decided that he no longer wanted to play. I hope for the well-being of the players and all those involved that there can be some type of resolution.
August 30, 2010 at 1:01pm
The kids do mostly sign up because of HIM. They enjoy playing for him. And he forewarns every parent before the season of how he coaches and gives them a chance to not play for him. I also battled this "only play to win" idealism myself for a while, with baseball and football. But I'm here to tell YOU if your kid plans to play throughout their school years, it's gonna be a cold hard reality. There isn't a coach alive that doesn't want to win deep down. They all signed up to play and they should get to play. But what I think is the funniest statement of all this complaining people are doing over this situation is about "what we're teaching our kids." It's time to sweep our own porches, because look at what the parents are teaching these kids by showing out in front of them and all the parents. Which memory/impression is gonna stay with that kid longer? The coach's decision not to play them or their parent acting out like a hot head?
August 30, 2010 at 2:17pm
This is in pretty much all sports around here. We experienced it as well. This is Woodbury and it will never change. Seems like if we want our kids to be able to play, learn something and be treated equally then we will have to go ut of town. Now tell me how fair this is to the kids???
August 30, 2010 at 4:14pm
In my experience the kids sign up to play because they want to play football not because of who the coach is. He has been very instrumental in building the program but also is the reason why it stays the same size because a lot of kids quit because they don't want to play for him anymore. I'm pretty sure if you were to ask the kids why they are there they will say to play football not because of the coach. Also, the kids do not have much of a choice but to play for him because most of the people around here don't have the time to drive their child back and forth to Murfreesboro 3 days a week. I do realize that coaches and kids both want to win but the team is not winning games and I'm pretty sure the kids don't really care if the team won the game if they didn't get to play in it. And to answer a question that you asked earlier, I think the memory of their parent sticking up for them will stick with them just as long as the memory of not getting to play.
August 30, 2010 at 7:59pm
Maybe send your kid to camps and make sure they are at practice EVERY DAY! and it might not be a bad idea to work with them at home also,I have witnessed countless times parents taking thier kids off the practice field early or exactly at the quitting time and I understand that we all have schedules but sometimes a few extra minutes of practice are needed, and if you fill so inclined to take your child to Rutherford co. to play you will have practice a minimum of four (4)days a week and typically more than the 11/2 to 2 hours we have in Cannon co. in closing playing time should NEVER be discussed between coach and parents try asking your child why they are not playing or better yet stick around and watch practice and see for yourself! I have been around sports in Cannon and surrounding counties and have yet to see any that promote a losing mentality!! GO LIONS!!!
August 31, 2010 at 3:59am
just to let you know i am a coach on this team,my name is Ray Hunt. The statement about all the coaches having children on this team is completely false. Myself and three other coaches have no child on this team. I love the game and i want all of these children to love it as well. To be honest i believe people in this town have excepted losing. I do not believe as a coach or a parent we should teach our children that failure is a way of life. It is a part of life but it doesnt have to be a way of life. And yes we have struggled over the last few years but that doesnt mean we should give up and throw in the towel. This is still a very young program. Other programs surrounding us have been doing this for 30 years. I stand behind our decision to keep the starters in the whole game and try and win the game. Winning the game could have helped our players confidence out a lot. Whether any of you parents like it or not these children want to win even the ones on the bench. I hope that the coaches that coach my children do not coach to lose. We all have to learn to deal with losing but we should just accept it. And this coach that the article is speaking of is a very good coach. I have coached with him for 4 years now and he has always treated the players well. This program is headed in the right direction and as soon as we get these parents who have a losing spirit about them out of the way maybe we will have a winning program.
August 31, 2010 at 8:07am
It is a little difficult not to accept losing when that's all these kids that have played for you guys have really ever know. The parents that are doing the complaining just want their kids treated fairly. They should be used at practice just as much as the starters are and then maybe you would discover you have more than just 11 worthy of stepping out on the field. Everybody keeps saying that we are a new program and we are still learning but my son has been with this program since it started and the same thing has been done every year so what exactly are you learning if you are not trying anything new or different? Also, the upset parents might start to believe he was a good coach if he showed up at practice and hung around and payed attention to these boys. I know he is busy because he decided to coach 2 teams but last night was a prime opportunity for him to be over there coaching and seeing what goes on at practice after the parents meeting but instead he decided to hang out with his wife and friends.
August 31, 2010 at 8:21am
Wonder what it would take for folks to show this much interest in education? A letter, redacted of course, expressing dismay that many of our CCHS graduates have to take remedial courses when entering college and year after year of ACT averages of 19? A letter from irate teachers lamenting the lack of interest from the parents about their child’s academic progress and how much more interest was funneled towards that child making and playing sports? A letter from a most concerned parent about the dire need for teachers of excellence who took pride in challenging students to do their very best? Another letter to the school board on how to rid the system of inferior teachers who failed year after year to discharge their responsibilities?
Don’t worry-won’t happen in Cannon County.
August 31, 2010 at 9:36am
EVERY PARENT that was at that meeting and ALL COACHES should go to and read the rules that govern this youth sports league. I think you will all find it very interesting.
August 31, 2010 at 2:39pm
I agree with dailyreader! Education should be the prime focus. Sports are supposed to be fun, while teaching life lessons and creating friendships. My son is in kindergarten this year and his teacher has been a teacher for 3 years at 3 different schools and still doesnt have her act together! He also plays football and even though he is five and this is his first year, he enjoys it. He has made so many friends and looks forward to games (even though he only gets to play for a minute). Children will begin to develop the same outlook and aproach things the same way their parents do, so we need to make sure as parents we are being positive and setting the example. Getting frustrated and making a big deal out of things only teaches your child to react that way. be proud that your child is making the effort and sticking with the sport and be the encourager... not the discourager!!!
August 31, 2010 at 9:37pm
My son was a benchwarmer for two years. One season he played 30 seconds, yes, 30 seconds the entire season. We paid the same amount of money as everyone else. We were at every practice, and I was right there every minute watching him. He now refuses to play, because he says he is not good enough! How can he know how good (or bad) he is if never given a chance?
I have a solution to this problem...have tryouts. Before you charge a family even one penny, have a tryout! Only the children deemed good enough to play have to pay. All the benchwarmers can find a better way to use their time. If my son tries out for a team and does not make it, I can handle that. I can explain that to him. BUT if I am paying for him to play, he should play!

As for the coaches, I completely understand wanting to win, but at what cost? If you have that attitude toward winning, coach a team where you get to pick your players. Having coached myself for many years, I know what a huge commitment you make. I know the sacrifices. For that, I am appreciative. Good luck, Lions!
September 01, 2010 at 12:01am
Sports is a dangerous subject in Cannon County. If one's child is not an "all star", then they can expect a good deal of sitting on the bench. With both the football and basketball programs at the high school, sports offers our children the opportunity to become involved in competitive sports. As the old saying goes, "Winning isn't everything, its the only thing" for most coaches. Sadly, the greatest pressure felt by our children participating in sports is from us, the parents. We want to support them and see them succeed. We want to insure they receive a fair opportunity. We are there to take up for them when they are not treated fairly. Sports, however, is not about being fair. In today's schools, it is about winning. Quite a contradiction to the way the rest of the school system works in a day when children aren't supposed to experience the feeling of having lost. We (in today's schools) aren't to grade with a "RED" pen any longer.... makes the child feel like a "loser". Can't spank them for misbehaving. Can't repremand them in the classroom no matter how disrepectful they are. Have "alternative school" for that now. Can't do this and can't do that but on the sports field we teach them that winning is the only thing that counts. Our schools are certainly sending a mixed message to our children. Don't know the answer. Just know that sports and the regular instructional theories seem to go in opposite directions. Maybe if they could pull together in some agreed direction it would help.
September 01, 2010 at 3:23pm
I am a granparent of one of the little football players on another team. I was very disappointed that he didn't get to play but a few seconds in the fourth quarter even through the score was 20-0. I do understand wanting to win, but at this age it is suppose to be about teaching them sportsmanship and how to play the game, getting them ready for High School football. But all I saw was my family wasting our time and money at a game that only the same kids got to keep playing. You know money to play ball is not easy for some parents to come by,so I think all these coaches should think more about teaching the game then winning.Come on coaches I don't care who's kids they are or how good they are, give them all a break, they want to play ball too.
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