Being Father's Day last Sunday, I felt compelled to weigh in on a story that came across our newswire last week where a country board in South Carolina is considering banning volunteer parents from coaching to avoid the perceived "favoritism" that is apparently associated with parents coaching their children. Yes, you read correctly. At a time when we are dealing with a coaching crisis of sorts across the country and should be encouraging parents to be more involved in their child's life, there is a group out there that wants to ban those parents from not only helping their kids, but other kids on that sports team, as well.  

First, I played baseball for my father for many years and let me assure you, there was zero favoritism. My father was harder on me than any other player and demanded more from me than any player. More often than not, you'll find this is the norm for parents coaching their children. Of course, every parent is different. Mine was the Bobby Knight of Little League. He was a great but sometimes volatile coach that definitely made his share of enemies at the park district. One notable memory was when he had me pitch and hit leadoff when I was 11… and had a broken arm. He was swiftly banned from playing me until the cast came off and I was cleared by a doctor to return to action. My father took great pride in winning, and worked hard with all of his players to make them better. And they loved him for it. 

So what about on the high school level where many parents volunteer their time assisting the head coach? Let's make sure we are identifying a key word in that sentence: volunteer. These parents are not paid; they are taking time out of their likely busy schedules to help the team at no cost. So how much power exactly do these volunteer parents have? Last I checked, it is your paid head coach that is making those decisions. If these coaches are filling head coaching voids, shouldn't the school and/or district be happy they have somebody that's at least willing to step up to the plate when apparently no one else would?

But say we remove those parents and replace them with other volunteer coaches that do not have kids playing on those teams; ones that will show no favoritism. How well do you actually know these coaches? They used to play baseball in high school, that's great. But what else? How are they going to teach the boys and girls the life lessons that come with playing sports? Volunteer coaches not only demonstrate expertise but serve as role models, as well. A news report from earlier this year on South Florida volunteer youth coaches, for example, uncovered that many of these volunteer coaches were convicted felons.

If there is "favoritism" happening with volunteer parents, the solution is far simpler and much less extreme than simply banning all volunteer parents. How about actually talking with the parties involved about the complaints rather than making a rash decision based on what is likely a very vocal minority. Banning volunteer coaches? This makes as much sense as playing a child with a broken arm in a meaningless baseball game.

 

Dennis Van Milligen is Editor in Chief of Athletic Business.