I was challenged a couple days ago by my old high school buddy Sam Faddis to get off the bench and back into the game. He asked me to start sharing with AND Magazine readers some of the insights I have learned along the way over decades of coaching sports.
I really don't know where Sam learned how to speak coach lingo. As best I recall I had to carry him around the track on my back in high school gym class. In those days he was lucky if he weighed 140 pounds soaking wet. In any event, I took his request to heart and decided to begin writing on the state of athletics today.
I coached basketball for twenty-four years, eighteen in elementary school, junior high and high school and six years as an assistant coach at Waynesburg College in South Western Pennsylvania. After all that time it's hard to know where to start, but today I thought I would touch on the attitude of our youth in sports, because that's where it all begins, and it's amazing how many young kids are influenced by professional athletes. I'm not claiming to be an expert, yet I'll draw off of my twenty-four years of experience in coaching basketball and what I have seen in that time.
ATTITUDE!! Yes, attitude is where we start to build a cohesive team and to eliminate the "me first" attitude, which is so prevalent in today's culture. I believe that an individual that's coaching at the youth level should be teaching fundamentals first, focusing on conduct and not even thinking about winning. That will come in due time. Parents need to take a step back, be spectators and support their kids in a positive way. Parents should not criticize their children in a way which will cause the child to hate the sport or the experience of playing it. Parents should not be interfering with the coach.
I had a friend who coached high school football, and one of his players actually hoped that his Dad wouldn't come to his games, because he was such an overbearing parent. Don't get me wrong. There are good parents out there, and they rarely get acknowledged. All too often, though, parents are sending the wrong message and setting the wrong example. Instead of supporting the coach in teaching fundamentals and sportsmanship, they are undercutting him and pushing a "win at all costs" mentality.
As coaches we should not just teach how to play the game, we also should make every effort to teach how to act away from the game, I'm a strong believer and supporter of this. I want my players to be gentlemen off the court and act with class. I mean what's wrong with that?
I still can be fearless on the court or knock you into the second Tuesday of next week on the football field and be a gentleman when we are done playing. When the game is over it's over.
Why are NFL players more concerned about a touchdown dance than doing their job? You're getting paid millions to play a kid's game, and these kids today think this is cool. Odell Beckham of the New York Giants acting like a dog in the end zone after scoring a touchdown is just plain classless, and every time he or someone like him does something similar millions of kids across America are watching.
So, for right now let's work with our youth on doing the common things in their sports uncommonly well. Let's focus on the fundamentals of the sport. Let's also focus on the fundamentals of fair play, sportsmanship and the lessons learned on the field that apply to life off of it as well. Coaches, parents, I'm talking to you.