FCIAC

Commentary: As Parents Continue To Go After Coaches, It Is Time For Schools To Push Back

When was the last time you read about a Spanish teacher retiring because a group of parents took it upon themselves to circulate a survey to help improve job performance? Or an English teacher terminating a beloved career because parents constantly questioned the methods of instruction?

You haven’t. For one, parents seem to trust school administrators to make the right decisions. Second, academics is an area where parents will cede a lack of expertise.

Most will agree the football field, basketball court, ice rink and track are a different sort of classroom. It is a place where coaches instill life lessons while also trying to bring out the best in their students. Like the heads of drama and music departments, they seek to develop perfect collaboration.

Yet it in this environment where a greater number of parents feel it is within their realm to question everything from playing time to strategical decisions. Schools hire experienced athletic administrators to make these calls, but more and more parents treat them as yellow lights, to be sped past in order to enact changes where they erroneously feel more qualified to pass judgment.

Most of these abusive parents have their own personal agendas. Their self interests blind them to the true talent levels of their children. They would never think to second-guess the science teacher, but perhaps a couple of years coaching youth teams, a few hours a week watching SportsCenter or money spent on private lessons or travel teams that demand a return on investment have emboldened them to make the call on whether it is time to go after the soccer coach.

The latest example of a good coach leaving not on his own terms came on Monday, when Staples boys lacrosse coach Paul McNulty, with 50 years on his resume, stepped down. The reason, as you can listen here on the podcast we tapedwas that his current boosters informed him that the incoming group of parents wanted “regime change” or they would no longer support the program.

Emphasis on INCOMING, not current, parents.

Regime change is a term once reserved for political science classes, but now seems in accordance with the way entitled parents think. They of course know better than anyone whether a team has reached its potential, whether the coach should be using a shotgun formation instead of relying too much on the running game, or whether it was wise to keep Johnny on the bench and Jimmy on the field to preserve a 1-0 lead in the closing minutes.

The borders of reason have been crossed, and the onus is now on the schools to put a stop to it. This has to be addressed at the top, and we are no longer talking about beleaguered athletic directors, but principals and superintendents. One has to wonder whether they would allow the social studies teacher to be subjected to the same level of abuses as the lacrosse coach.

These stories are occurring now on a regular basis — one coach only half in jest told me the other day I could have a weekly podcast series with embattled FCIAC colleagues as they share their stories of parental intrusiveness. The majority of good people in towns like Wilton and Westport — currently running 1-2 in the problem poll — are seeing their reputations dragged down by the minority who have become increasingly emboldened with each coach they run out of their profession.

And it should be stressed that while it has been less publicized, this is happening everywhere.

These coaches, with a few exceptions, are not being questioned for abusive behavior or putting children into hazardous situations. Look at all the coaches who have felt compelled to step down in the past year. In most instances, it is because parents have felt the difference between wins and losses is not what it should be. Or that their children’s teams are not playing on equal terms against opponents that in some cases are nationally ranked.

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Imagine how big a headache these parents must be for good coaches who chose a profession because of their love working with kids to feel the scales have become so imbalanced that it is no longer worth the aggravation.

The borders of reason have been crossed, and the onus is now on the schools to put a stop to it. This has to be addressed at the top, and we are no longer talking about beleaguered athletic directors, but principals and superintendents. One has to wonder whether they would allow the social studies teacher to be subjected to the same level of abuses as the lacrosse coach.

Many coaches feel the higher echelon of school administrators are too fearful for their jobs to take on parents. Two athletic directors agreed parents right now have far too much access to the coaches.

Everyone is talking about the issue but no measures are being enacted. We are becoming numb to the reruns. The reaction should be anger, not a “here we go again” shrug of the shoulders.

How many school systems have done a study of current protocols, and whether they are in tune with the changed landscape where parents are crossing lines outside normal domain? How hard is it to undergo policy reviews to try and make the job environment better for the employees?

How many care?

That last question may seem callous, but given the run on coaches leaving the profession, it needs to be asked.

Because soon the parents will be running the athletic departments.

And there will be no good coaches left.