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It's not Easy, But Who’s Coaching the Coaches?

The Good, the bad and the ugly…

The controversy regarding in an as reported by Patch has certainly taken on a life of its own.  A record number of comments have thus far been racked up and the level of emotion is quite high. 

I have no intention of stating my position on this issue because that’s not the point of this piece. The whole thing got me to thinking about the world of sports in general, and how it applies to Newtown in particular.

One of the most important things that makes up the culture of towns like Newtown is sports, and it’s in that area where the spirit of volunteerism is most visible. 

On any given night or weekend, you will find dozens of men and women coaching and lots and lots of kids practicing a sport or playing a game.  I can’t think of a single time of year when there isn’t at least one kind of sport being played — and this doesn’t even count school sports.

What amazes me more than anything is that there doesn’t seem to be any shortage of generous, talented people who are willing to take the significant time involved and coach these sports. We’re talking about a lot of people here because not only is there a fairly impressive variety of sports being played but just about every kid in town is playing at least one of them.

Coaching is a very tough job. Not only do you have to know more than the average bear about the sport but it’s equally important you be able to work effectively with the kids you are coaching.

Plus, as I learned during my coaching days, there’s another aspect of the job that sometimes overshadows the sport itself. Very often it’s what’s happening on the sidelines that tests ones skills more than what’s happening on the field. 

I speak of the spectators — parents and friends — some of whom tend to second-guess every move a coach makes. On top of that, most coaches find  themselves dealing at one time or another with those parents who think their kids are gifted athletes who should be playing every second of every game to the exclusion of other players. 

No, coaching is not easy. Yet dozens of men and women all over town turn out year after year to give of their time and talent.

To be a coach — I am not aware of a formal system of training nor am  I aware of a  screening process. It seems that it’s just a matter of league directors either recruiting people they know or putting the word out that they need coaches.

Consequently,  things occasionally go wrong — not wrong like the Penn State situation — but wrong like a person taking on the task of coaching who shouldn’t be doing it. 

Every once in a while, you’ll get someone who is temperamentally unsuited to deal effectively with children or their parents or who simply doesn’t understand the sport they’re coaching.

When a scenario like this occurs at the recreational level, it’s almost as though it’s self-correcting. League/athletic directors, other coaches and even parents will very quickly step in and put things right. To a lesser extent I find this to be the case in school sports as well.

But what about at the college level? Who’s watching the store there — except for the accountants who are keeping track of  the money a given sport is accumulating for the school?

What happened at Penn State is a tragedy and I hope that justice will ultimately prevail.

Further, let me be quick to point out that what happened at Penn State doesn't remotely compare with anything at the local level.  

But I can see how it might be a distraction so to those of you giving of your time and talent, thank you for the fine job you’re doing.  We are a better town for it. 

Eric Paradis December 12, 2011 at 10:39 AM
I attended a workshop from http://www.positivecoach.org, as part of the Newtown Soccer Club,
W. Thompson December 12, 2011 at 11:34 AM
George, the Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) has programs that virtually every youth sport coach can tap into. Several Newtown youth coaches created a cross-sport initiative last year to expose their entire organizations to the training principles of the PCA. The youth lacrosse community here in CT also provides extensive attitudinal and strategic training opportunities to all volunteer and paid coaches on a regular basis. So, in effect - LOTS of people are coaching the coaches behind the scenes.
George Stockwell December 12, 2011 at 12:08 PM
"...every youth sport coach CAN tap into." Is it required? Of all the coaches in all the sports, how many do it? Is there any reliable data anywhere on this?
Richard B. Fisher, DDS December 12, 2011 at 12:38 PM
I also attended the Positive Coaching Alliance workshop. It was recommended but not required.
Eric Paradis December 12, 2011 at 01:03 PM
I don't have any data, but I thought the program helped me focus on what was really important, that the kids learn how to play better and that they have a good time doing it. I believe the session I went to was hosted by our local lacrosse folks and our soccer league wanted us coaches to go.
Jeff December 12, 2011 at 06:40 PM
Then there was the Newtown youth football coach who called the kids losers because they came in 2nd, NICE!!!
W. Thompson December 12, 2011 at 08:49 PM
The Connecticut-New York Youth Lacrosse Association (CONNY) requires that EVERY coach (boys and girls) who will be on the sidelines must complete the PCA Double-Goal coach training, as well as a US Lacrosse Level I coaching clinic program.
W. Thompson December 12, 2011 at 09:40 PM
Jeff, unfortunately every sport has dads/coaches who lack perspective. No sport is immune, and no sport is worse than another. All the training in the world can't stop people who are already idiots from still being idiots. Old dogs...new tricks - it just aint happening in most cases. You just have to hope that you can find good people to get involved who understand the importance of teaching kids to be competitive and extend themselves to the best of their abilities and not always focus on just the Ws and L's, although at some point that's pretty important too. In short - you want to limit the knuckleheads, which is not always an easy task given the commitment. The most intense people are usually the ones willing to invest their time to guarantee that their kid acheives all they hope (expect) that he/she can acheive.

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