As athletics have grown in general the level of competition in high school football has risen dramatically. Better athletes, stricter rules, higher scores, larger crowds, increased college scholarships and increased complexity in schemes are all bi-products of the growth. However, this increased competitiveness has also lead to higher stakes and in some cases a lack of perspective from coaches.
Most coaches enjoy coaching and working with kids, helping them wherever they might go, doing everything they can to help their team reach lofty goals. They understand that football is a medium through which we can learn other lessons like perseverance, teamwork, and character. It's a way to teach young men the value of hard work and to possibly open doors to future opportunities. A lot of coaches aren't even just looking out for their own kids but for all the kids. Coaches are here to help kids reach goals, and one coach has a connection that can help a kid from an opponent often the coach will agree to help. I encountered that this past year season on one particular example; one coach offered to call a few college coaches on behalf of a receiver from the opposing team. He was genuinely wanting to help an opponent and help all kids reach their goals.
This type of behavior accounts for a large percentage of high school coaches - coaching for the right reasons, helping kids become good football players and even better people, giving help wherever they can. Unfortunately, there is a leftover percentage of coaches who don't always see things that way. They coach for ego, so they can feel like Vince Lombardi amongst their town. They consistently yell at the kids for making mistakes instead of coaching them how to do it better. Their own bravado and pride becomes more important than the kids and any shot to those traits becomes personal.
I've seen it too much over the last 5 years or so; a coach has an opportunity to help a kid, but because the coach felt slighted in some way he turned it down. He only looks out for his favorite players, doesn't uphold his word, and carries himself with less class than we would hope for. It's unfortunate that two kids at different high schools could have drastically different experiences based on who their coaches are. One kid could have wildly positive experience and learn life values, the other could feel consistently down-trodden and beaten. One could be well coached, prepared for every game, and develop confidence. The other could end up working on fundamentals on his own, struggle through college camps, practices and games as he falls through the cracks, and develop insecurity.
With that in mind, my hope is that the percentage high school coaches that have forgotten their role can begin to remember what it is they are there for. Help the kids, all the kids, not just the ones you like or who suck up to you. Carry yourself with class at all times, teach positive values and develop good young men, not just football players. Keep football in perspective with grades and personal character, and be unwilling to sacrifice a child's future values to earn a quick win right now. Push the kids to get better and give them the best opportunity to succeed on and off the field. Do your best for every kid, both on your team, on a rivals team, and elsewhere. These are, after all, kids, who need guidance and leadership, role models and life lessons. Everything you do becomes a learned behavior for those you lead.
Here's to hoping every kid will benefit from their coach, and every coach learns to work only for good.
SPU's Alex Drayson writes the SPU Football Performance Blog.