If you are wondering why a personal finance blogger is writing about sports and parenting, just bear with me.
I was actually a coach for a good portion of my adult life. And actually a lot of what I am about to say has to do with money.
But as a coach, there was one thing I have always wanted to say to parents… but I wasn’t allowed to….
Parents: Stop ruining sports for your kid and their coach!
In fact, the impact sports had on my life is why I went to school to become a teacher and coach.
But there is a serious problem in youth & high school sports…
Coaches don’t want to coach anymore.
Blame the parents, blame the time, blame the sport. It doesn’t really matter who you blame, at the end of the day coaches are resigning like crazy.
And honestly can you blame the coaches?
A simple Google search of “High School Coaches Resigning” and you will see letters and articles about coaches not wanting to coach anymore.
Some coaches say it’s the kids who lack heart and grit…
Some say the time required is just too much…
Some will say administrative support is lacking…
But just about every coach will agree, over involved parents in youth and high school sports is one of the worst problems in athletics.
And worst of all – more kids just don’t enjoy sports anymore.
Kids are caught in the middle of the ongoing tension between coaches and parents. Quite honestly, it is hurting not only sports, but the future adults we are grooming our kids to be.
I don’t pretend to have all the answers when it comes to sports & life in general…
Even as a former coach and AD I don’t pretend to know when we went from a society that thanked coaches for pouring into our kids to a society that makes coaches lives wayyyy harder than they have to be.
At one point in my coaching career I spent 27 of 34 Saturday’s with student athletes in some capacity – either on the field, in a gym, or driving to off-season tournaments up and down the east coast.
My girlfriend at the time, (Who is now my wife) admired my commitment but was worried about our future as a couple and if I was going to dedicate my life to athletics. Rightfully so.
I wasn’t coaching for the money, (When I did the math it was less than minimum wage per hour) I was coaching because I wanted to pay it forward. I truly loved the impact sports had on my life and I hoped others could experience the same.
And for many of the kids I coached we had an amazing time and I still have unique bonds with former athletes.
Growing up, my mom loved my coaches. She thanked them for giving us rides to practice and helping out when maybe she couldn’t. The coaches did things they didn’t have to to help my brother and I out.
In high school, my coaches were my heroes. I looked up to them and wanted to be them. I pushed myself harder everyday to impress my coaches and earn their respect.
Heck, I even based my career path off of my high school experiences.
Then I became a coach, and I quickly realized things had changed.
I remember my first year coaching and a wrestler quit. The idea of quitting to me was so foreign I was shocked, but he wasn’t the last to quit that year. In fact he was the first of many.
It wasn’t so much that he quit, or that his parents didn’t make him finish what he started, it was his reason:
“I figured since I wrestle JV I will probably never get a scholarship, so I am quitting.”
And that my friends, is why I think everything has changed.
As a personal finance blogger, this article fits really well with the subject of money. In fact, money is one of the reason’s sports have changed in my opinion.
More people are in search of scholarships dollars instead of realizing the true life lessons and values sports teach us. Values like sometimes losing with pride that are just part of life, (Something we will all experience).
From learning that not everything will always go your way, to persevering through being a backup and learning to work harder, sports were not designed to just serve as a way to make college free.
Sports are meant to create memories of camaraderie and build us up. Sports are meant to teach us how to handle adversity and identify areas of improvement. What sports were not designed for is to have parent’s dictate playing time or how a coach should coach.
On a side note – even if you think your kid is the next all star athlete, chances are higher you can receive an academic scholarship before you ever get an athletic scholarship.
But where did we go wrong?
Eat Dirt – You’ll be ok.
When we were little kids we played outside. The only time we were inside was when it was raining. And when we played outside we fell, got back up, and sometimes we even ate dirt as little kids.
There was no purell to sanitize our hands and make sure we were germ free. Yet, these days more parents see their kids fall down or eat dirt, and before they can shake it off and keep playing, they are there to swipe them up and make it all better.
As Simon Sinek said so eloquently in Leaders Eat Last,
“A growing body of evidence suggests that parents of the Millennial Generation may have erred on the side of over-coddling their kids.”
More kids are not able to persevere and there more trophies for participation then their for actual accomplishment. Yet as adults we get rewarded directly for our output, not just showing up.
However, what is worse is that receiving an award for something you didn’t earn actually has a negative effect on self esteem. When your last you know your last.
With more and more parents wanting to control every environment and situation for their kids, it is not a surprise that it has trickled to sports. But over parenting is not just a problem in sports, its a problem in the adults we are creating.
As a whole, Millennials are less prepared for the workforce, entitled, and have difficulty following through or being resourceful. Julie Haims a Dean at Stanford asks,
“Did the safety-conscious, academic achievement-focused, self-esteem-promoting, checklisted childhood that has been commonplace since the mid-1980s and in many communities has become the norm, rob kids of the chance to develop into healthy adults?
In other words, did over parenting actually hinder your child? Did complaining about the coach and playing time make your child think they are owed something?
Youth sports, and sports in general are not about Scholarships & Money
The minute privatization and specialization hit youth sports there became a conflict of interest.
Kids as young as 8 were being told they needed to do this, train here, and play there in order to get their “athletic scholarship.”
Parents start paying thousands per year at a young age for travel sports and specialized coaching in order to ensure that their child gets their college scholarship.
Heck, in 2011 some parents were paying $4,000+ for travel sports according to a CBS new article. (& that is probably a fraction of what it is now).
Some were told their kids are talented and have what it takes before they even hit puberty… so they paid for more specialization and coaching.
But if someone is writing you a check to hear that their child is good at said sport, do you tell them the truth … or do you tell them what they want to hear?
Coaches who were receiving lots of money for training and specialization started telling these paying parents that their kid was the next great LeBron or Mike Trout, so long as they kept doing what they said… and paying them!
And it all boils down to money.
Then all of a sudden something happened. These parent’s who have been told their kids are amazing and super talented since they were 8, go to high school. And in high school the pay to play thing is gone. When a kid doesn’t make the varsity team as a 9th grader a shock wave hits. Or worse, when they made the team, but don’t earn playing time … The coach has done something wrong.
And so it becomes a coaching problem – not a student athlete problem.
I know some kids are talented and some kids are not. I am a classic example.
I was not very talented, but in 8th grade I was a stud on the football field – or so I thought. But then in 9th grade something happened. Weighing 100 pounds, I quickly realized that my football dreams of playing in the pros were going to be a little harder.
But I did not quit. I finished the season as a bench warmer and rolled into wrestling season where I found my niche. I ended up playing football for two more years, even though I hardly saw the field.
The lessons football taught me helped me in wrestling, but I also enjoyed being on the team and everything associated with the sport. But this never happened:
“The coach doesn’t like me, the coach plays favorites, I am better than the starter.”
Instead of making excuses, I tried harder at practice and went to off season weight training. While I never really got to see the field as much as I’d like, I also realized I was not as good as the starters.
I had strengths in other areas, and like most I focused on my strengths and did not worry or belabor about my inadequacies. We all have things we areas for improvement.
However, this is not the case these days.
Improve vs Complain.
Coming up on 7 months of blogging, I am very much aware of the fact that there are two sides to every story. Not every parent who has a kid who plays a sport makes it suck for their kid and the coaches.
But chances are, a lightbulb in your head just went off because you thought of someone who does. And those parents that are constantly trying to manipulate every situation are only doing two things:
- Causing unnecessary stress for their kid and teaching them that it’s not their fault, it is someone else’s fault. They don’t need to improve, someone else needs to change for them.
- Causing coaches to really question the idea of coaching.
I think this most disheartening thing I saw in athletics was the lack of ambition for improvement. Some kids are super talented, but because they are told they are good they feel entitled.
Entitled to playing time, entitled to their position, and entitlement is never a good thing.
Coaches are not abundant.
But there was one problem – only one applicant applied for my position and he ultimately decided to go elsewhere.
That same year as a new assistant AD there was a parent who was upset about the hiring of a coach. The coach, according to the parent, did not have experience, knowledge, or expertise to be a coach for this team with a longgg history of losing.
What the parent didn’t know – was that the coach we hired was the only applicant who applied for the job…
Who the hell were we supposed to hire?
They might coach for the glory, but most coach so they can make a positive impact through sports, often times because that is what sports did for them.
I know some coaches are not the best, and we have all had a bad coach. But just like in sports, not everything will go our way as adults either.
As an educator I don’t get to pick my students or classes, they are assigned. What I teach and how I teach it is guided by the school district and my superiors. I can’t complain or ask for new students.
The end goal for most coaches at the high school level is to win. Ultimately, their job security is based on winning and losing.
So as a coach and former AD, I used to ask this question when the playing time issue came up,
“Do you really think the coach purposely plays worse kids because he likes them more?”
Common Sense is not so common.
Obviously there are factors at play, such as attitude, effort, potential, but at the end of the day I would say 95% of coaches do their best to put the best athletes in play.
Do they make mistakes? Sure they do.
Do some kids play better at practice then they do at games and vice versa? Of course.
Have we come to a place where common sense is not so common? I think so.
My entire point of writing this article was to bring light to the fact that sports is not about playing time or scholarships. Sports are not about putting stickers on your car or making others feel less because they are not as good.
The me first generation has caused a lot of people to think they are better than they really are and sometimes owed something.
Athletics are not about resting on your laurels. Sports are about improving daily, setting goals, failing, and building relationships.
Sports are not about MONEY!
We have all seen the scandals that have shocked college basketball because of greed and short term thinking. And we have seen the lawsuits with college football and the profit some schools are generating.
What we don’t see are the kids busting their tails and working hard to be the best they can be and translate that to success as adults. You don’t hear much about those stories.
Not everyone is going pro. Not every coach is the best. And not every kid, including myself, is the next greatest athlete.
However, we can all gather tons from sports, as both former athletes and parents that will help shape the future generations.
Like I said earlier, I don’t pretend to know all the answers, but I can speak for a majority of coaches – we don’t coach for the money. We do it to so we can help kids get as much as we did from sports.
So next time you are tempted to start an email with, “I usually don’t do this but…” consider asking your kid to persevere.
Chances are there will be times in life they will have to make big decisions, decisions and choices that mom and dad can’t take care of.
Consider thanking your coach for helping and realizing they spend more time with your kids sometimes then their own. Consider telling your kid they did great, regardless if they did. And if you are not a parent like myself, consider these when you do have kids!
Awareness is key to making changes. Feel free to share, as I hope more coaches continue to coach and more kids learn the life lessons I learned because of high school athletics and sports!
Q: What is your take on sports in schools and the general climate of youth athletics?
Raise your hand if you have ever asked this question…how do I payoff my student loans? Now put your hand back down if you really
When you are considering consolidating your student loans it is best to imagine this hypothetical scenario. Imagine you are walking in a field and you