Which highly successful high school coach will be the next to say, “I’m done. I’ve had enough of parents.”?
Equally as possible: Which coach, no matter the level of his or her successes on and off the field or court, will be forced out by an administration that caves to pressure from overzealous parents who are sure that coach is preventing their little Bobby or Suzie from attaining athletic stardom and a college scholarship?
When two executive directors of high school athletic associations author an article titled, “Parents and Adult Fans: The Biggest Challenge Facing High School Sports Today,” you know there’s a problem.
Karissa Niehoff, of the National Federation of State High School Associations, and Jerry Snodgrass, of the Ohio High School Athletic Association, collaborated on the article this past week. It can be found at OHSAA.org.
They contend “adult behavior at high school athletic events in Ohio has reached epidemic proportion.”
Bad behavior. Abusive behavior.
It’s tough to argue their premise, supported by this nugget: In a recent survey of 2,000 athletic directors from across the country, nearly two-thirds said what they like least about their job is “dealing with aggressive parents and adult fans.”
Game officials, according to Niehoff and Snodgrass, bear an even heavier burden from overexuberant adults than ADs, with almost 80% quitting after the first two years on the job.
To the parents who wonder (and vocalize) why “the zebra” can’t get the call right: Maybe that man or woman is brand new to the sport because your big mouth ran off the last good umpire who grew tired of your act and didn’t want to be followed to the parking lot yet again.
In Ohio, a growing shortage of high school officials — profound in wrestling, swimming and track and field, according to the article — threatens the continuation of those competitions as we know them. “No officials means no more games,” the article succinctly puts it.
We find it interesting that in two of the three sports mentioned as most affected by lack of officials, there is little subjectivity to interpret. Winners and runners-up are based on time or distance in track and by time in swimming. What’s to argue?
Yet too many parents do.
Year-round sports can exacerbate the problem. When the “off-season” AAU coach puts an athlete in a role different than the high school coach, tensions can rise. And, of course, there is the issue of playing time, almost always the No. 1 reason parents take their concerns to the increasingly frustrated athletic directors.
Niehoff and Snodgrass offer six guidelines for parents to consider as they sit in the stands and do their slow burn over what is (or isn’t) happening with their sons and daughters:
• Act Your Age. You are, after all, an adult. Act in a way that makes your family and school proud.
• Don’t live your life vicariously through your children. High school sports are for them, not you. Your family’s reputation is not determined by how well your children perform on the field of play.
• Let your children talk to the coach instead of you doing it for them. High school athletes learn how to become more confident, independent and capable—but only when their parents don’t jump in and solve their problems for them.
• Stay in your 0wn lane. No coaching or officiating from the sidelines.
•Remember, participating in a high school sport is not about getting a college scholarship. According to the NCAA, only about 2% of all high school athletes are awarded a sports scholarship, and the total value of the scholarship is only about $18,000.
• Make sure your children know you love watching them play. Do not critique your child’s performance on the car ride home.
“Purchasing a ticket to a high school athletic event does not give you the right to be rude, disrespectful or verbally abusive,” they said to parents. “Cheer loud and be proud, but be responsible and respectful. The future of high school sports in Ohio is dependent on you.”
We need every good coach and official to say at season’s end: “I’m not done. I can’t wait till next year.”