Coaching a School Sports Team In a Club-Infatuated Culture

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            April 5, 2017

            

I love coaching basketball, especially middle-school basketball, but coaching a school team, no matter whether it is a middle school or a high school team, has changed in the past few years. Club teams have skewed the picture and the experience!

It started a few years ago when a mom was irate about the fact that her son did not make the school interscholastic team. She shouted, “He’s playing on the Gold Crown team!” (Gold Crown is the state-wide league for club teams in Colorado.) She thought that there was something wrong with the fact that he was a player on that club team, but didn’t make the school roster.

It brings in the first problem with club sports teams: the financial resources of some versus the lack of resources of others. Money opens doors…and the lack of money keeps doors closed. I remember growing up in a family where “discretionary funds” was a foreign term. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I discovered that “eating out” meant more than getting a few lawn chairs set up around the grill in the backyard.

I learned to play baseball with the neighborhood kids in the side yard of the Bookman’s house in Williamstown, West Virginia. I learned to play basketball at the outdoor basketball courts at the community park. My friends and I played on teams in the Williamstown summer baseball league and Saturday morning basketball program at the high school in the winter time. The cost was minimal because the town underwrote most of the costs.

That was a different time, I guess! Parents are now willing to shell out thousands of dollars for their son or daughter to play club hockey, club volleyball, club baseball, club soccer, club basketball, club lacrosse, Pop Warner football, or club softball.

But others can’t! Whereas many club teams do fundraising projects, like car washes or garage sales, it does not make their teams free. Thus, club sports teams in many ways are guilty of creating this two-tiered system of athletes- the haves and the have nots!

That ties into the next ripple effect. Many parents believe that if they are paying all that money for their child to be on the team then they have expectations that need to be met. The first expectation is that he/she will play. Playing time, in their eyes, is guaranteed. The second expectation is that their child will progress to the next level. In other words, many parents believe the money they shell out for their child’s club team is like a down payment for a future college scholarship. Their child’s love, or lack of love, for the game is of minimal concern. Never mind the fact that there is a good chance their child will be injured at some point along the line that will result in college no longer being an option; or the even better chance that he/she will become totally burned out and no longer interested in playing.

That brings in a problem that I as a school sports team coach now deal with. If a club team is mostly comprised of athletes who want to be offered college scholarships then it is important that they stand out on the court or on the field. They need to be noticed! To be noticed often gets translated into meaning a player has to stand out from his/her teammates. It becomes about him! It becomes about her! Connecticut women’s basketball coach Gino Auriemma sees this happening and he shakes his head. He says that when he goes to a club tournament he watches to see how a player relates to her teammates, and he watches to see what her demeanor is when she is on the bench. Is a player is so self-absorbed with her personal stats, and disengaged from her teammates she won’t someday be wearing a Connecticut uniform.

I find this “all about me” attitude filtering down into the middle school ranks. When I watched that interview with Auriemma it made me think about how I will build future teams that I coach, because some of the players I’ve coached, who also play club basketball and are very good players, don’t mesh very well into a team concept that believes it takes a team to experience success. If you don’t believe me just take notice next school year of all the high school players who transfer from one school to another! Many of them are willing to sit out half of a sports season because they think should be playing more.

And don’t get me started on the parents!

Explore posts in the same categories: children, coaching, Freedom, Parenting, Story, Teamwork, Uncategorized, Youth

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