Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 17-04-2013

I was forwarded a link to an exceptional OpEd focusing on the culture in high school sports.  The main idea dealt with the belief that today’s sports culture is overly focused on winning and we are allowing this unrealistic view hurt athletes and those that coach high school sports.   Take a few minutes to read this OpEd – http://www.startribune.com/opinion/commentaries/202614331.html?refer=y

Now do you agree or disagree?  I agree and will attest to what I also see on the court, in the stands, and at the conclusion of many sports seasons.  Most of what I hear is heartfelt cheering for those participating and the coach that is coaching.  However, lets be honest, that is not always the case.  Even at EHS events you can hear the comments from fans about not winning, their child not playing, or the perceived poor decisions by the coach.  Are we not reinforcing that winning is the only thing?  What value is their in high school sports of losing, and learning from it?  Reflect upon the authors thoughts on this matter,

“Yet “success,” if defined by winning, was only experienced on the final day of the season by, for example, two of the 63 boys’ basketball teams in Minnesota’s Class 4A — Apple Valley and Edina. That means 61 teams in Class 4A ended their season in failure.”  St. Paul coach: The high school sports culture,  by: KEVIN A. KETO .   So is winning the only measure of success?  I hope not.

It was just shared today, in a teachers meeting, that sports is one of the best places to teach students how to cope with failure.  We coach athletes to look beyond the immediate failure, set a new goal, and finally to shake the hands of the team that defeated you.   These values will have more impact on our students lives than winning ever will.  They will go out into a world where day to day failures surpass the successes of each day.  They must have the will to persevere and know that failure is not fatal.

I want to share a short story of an event I witnessed right in our own gym this last year that has bothered me throughout the year.  It was a VB contest which was swaying point for point for several minutes.   During the game, nearing the end of the contest, EHS is up by 2 points.  The coach substitutes player C into the front row.  In earshot of myself and Player C’s mother another fan (a parent of Player B) says out loud “Dont put her in”.  Now what was that parents saying, out loud, about Player C?  Are we giving her the opportunity to succeed or fail?   The next thing out of the parents mouth is something like “What is the coach thinking?”.  Really?  Maybe the coach is not focusing on the WIN but on putting Player C in a position to succeed or fail.  Each athlete deserves the opportunity to learn both from success and failure.  Lastly, what a huge blow the the parent of Player C sitting in the stands, how awful to have to hear that from another EHS fan.  In this story, which was a C squad VB game, the player made a couple mistakes, but stayed in and in the end contributed to a close win for EHS.  They persevered, they were given the opportunity to fail, which was ok.

I want to conclude by stating, I fear these types of views often lead to over criticism of coaches.  I agree with the author when he said,

“Contrary to what some might believe, coaches do not congregate in their offices and decide how they can inflict the most emotional damage to the young athletes with whom they’ve chosen to spend three months. Nor do they make decisions about playing time with a goal to embarrass or belittle the same young men and women for whom they’re writing letters of recommendations. And they certainly don’t hatch evil plans to select seniors for the team with the intent to coerce them into raising funds to be spent on underclassmen.” St. Paul coach: The high school sports culture,  by: KEVIN A. KETO

If you have been in the position of a coach you know this is true.  I just wish the people in the stands would hold their tongues, reflect upon this thought, and remember these are only 14-18 year old kids that are doing their very best to WIN and more often than not learn from LOSING.  The coach is doing their very best to WIN but also TEACH all their athletes to appreciate the game, gain life long skills, and even in the face of FAILURE persevere.