When a coach resigns five games into a season as Jon Dale did at Pequot Lakes 10 days ago it's a sad reflection of the state of high school athletics.
Dale, a successful girls' basketball coach for many years at Pequot, had taken over as head coach of the Patriots' boys' team last year. Following an 8-15 season the Patriots were off to a 3-2 start this year. That's when Dale decided it wasn't fun anymore, that it's just not worth the grief that a head coach puts up with in the new millennium.
I don't blame Dale for pulling the pin. Actually, I congratulate him for having the courage to alleviate possibly the most stressful part of his life.
Being a head coach today often isn't worth it. Wins and losses don't assure a rewarding experience. I remember a coach who guided his team to consecutive state tournament appearances and the best records in program history but quit because of all the heartache.
Since Dale's resignation I have heard a few people wonder how he could leave his team after so few games, that he should have at least finished the season. Anyone who believes that doesn't realize what some people put coaches and their families through today.
I'm not sure what it was like to be a head coach many years ago but they may not have had people badgering them at home with phone calls, writing them threatening letters or confronting them after games. Coaches in any era have been constantly second-guessed about every decision but today people take it personal. They don't hesitate to vent on the coach.
As one who lugs a pen and notebook for a living and works with hundreds of coaches annually I have been appalled at some of the behavior I have seen directed toward coaches.
Following a volleyball game this fall I waited to interview a coach while a parent ripped into the coach about her daughter's apparent lack of playing time.
A friend, now a former coach, told me after he quit at midseason about the anonymous hate mail he received, one of the things that drove him out of the job he had always dreamed of having and had hoped to maintain for many years.
I have had another coach tell me that grumbling from whomever just plain breaks your spirit and makes you wonder whether it's worth it to continue.
Yet another friend recalls the embarrassing public meetings that were conducted when the community in which her dad coached was being run out of his position. Parents of some of her best friends were some of the most vocal complainers.
No matter what is written here is going to rectify the situation. Coaches will continue to make decisions and the public will continue to be up in arms. That's human nature.
What the whiners don't realize is what they do to coaches and their families. I know of an instance where a young junior high coach has quit the profession because the interference was merciless.
Ask any athletic director how easy it is to hire head coaches today. Their reply will probably be an eye-opener. Some schools advertise to fill head coaching positions until the first day of practice and later.
A head coach's tenure today probably averages five years or less. Many resign to become an assistant because there is less stress. Many say they quit because they want to spend more time with their family when the real reason was the job has become so miserable they don't want to continue.
Yes, not all coaches are perfect. They make mistakes just like the rest of us.
We are perilously close to the day when schools will have to suspend programs because they can't hire head coaches. We are also precariously close to the day when no individual wants to officiate an event because of the grief referees have to put up with.
When that day arrives certain people need only stare in the mirror for the reason why there are no coaches or officials.
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