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Teachable Moments………

February 20, 2011

Pretty soon, I am going to have to change the name of this blog to Sports Are (Not) Us.

I have a friend who calls any mistake a teachable moment. And it’s good to remember that parents can have teachable moments too. My family got to experience several yesterday.

My daughter plays basketball. She just started this year and she really, really likes it. And she has great coaches.

She had a game yesterday. She is 9, as are all of her teammates. It’s rec league – not travel. So there are rules about how many quarters everyone can play so that everyone gets fairly equitable playing time. Of course, depending on how many players are there, it’s not all even steven but it can be closer than not.

The coach from the other team played one player – a super duper great player – all four quarters. There were 7 players on his team so no one should have played more than 3 quarters in the land of following the rules. But his choice left at least one other child to play less than her fair share. Conveniently enough it was not one of their strongest players.

Our coaches pointed it out at the beginning of the third quarter when it actually would have been effective to address it.

The other coach ignored it. “Oh, we’ll talk about it later,” he said. Seriously, you have been told the rule and you opt out?

The teenage referees were not counting quarters of play and it quickly became too late to do anything about it. Without boring you to tears with the details – the other coach waited until the last quarter to give one girl her 2nd quarter of play. This meant she could not be substituted in for the player who was playing her fourth. It seemed suspect.

Then, when he tried to substitute another girl in mid-way through the fourth quarter who already had three quarters of play in and who was also conveniently also a very good player (by taking out a girl who had not yet had her three quarters), our coaches said “Wait a minute. You just cannot do that.”

The other coach said basically, “Why not?”

Well, let’s see, besides the little thing called the rule book, no reason.

So someone we were sitting with looked up the rules on his smart phone and took the rules onto the court. I have to say initially I was very happy he did it. I simply cannot stand it when coaches pull this kind of crap. I really can’t – it teaches so many bad lessons and it is so unnecessary. But the reality of it is that parents aren’t allowed on court. The parent did not stay to argue the case but you know – two wrongs rarely make a right. And two bad examples don’t end up being a good example.

I have to say that no one was yelling, the teenage refs kept their composure, and it was all fairly civilized. But every last second of it was completely unnecessary.

It is still very hard for me to understand why this coach did this. I know winning is a lot of fun. But if you win by cheating then are you really winning? And if you know you are cheating, well…..

We took advantage of the teachable moment it gave us to talk to our kids about a lot of things – the character of the coach, our inappropriate involvement in the discussion (I was pretty fired up myself), and how unfortunate it was for the girls who were being shortchanged and even for the girls who were being relied on too heavily.

The worst part of all of it is that this team is undefeated which means they have a really good team made up of strong players. They are probably even coached pretty well. They played well together and had a lot of strengths. They would have had a great game within the parameters of the rules.

So as parents we (read I) have to remember to let the coaches coach and the refs ref and to not have an opinion.

And, most importantly, we need to let (all) the players play the game and just watch.

I also need to rethink how close I sit to the coaches. I heard way too much of what was going on.

As coaches, please remember you are setting an example of how to behave on and off the court. It’s is more important for us all to raise children of character than WNBA superstars. Of course I understand that the dynamics of the play structure are most likely lost on the girls. They probably did not understand what was happening. (Although I bet one little girl understood very well that she was not playing nearly as much as someone else.) I can barely figure out the playing time matrix, but the coaches should understand it. And if they don’t, well then, the league should educate them better. Although I unfortunately do not believe this was a breakdown in the education system.

The bottom line for me is that I fell off my high horse yesterday smack in the mud and I am a little sore today………….

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Ian permalink
    February 21, 2011 9:25 am

    Absolutely excellent article. You hit the nail right on the head regarding some of the challenges of youth sports these days. As a soccer and basketball coach I have seen far too much of it. And unfortunately the problems stem mostly from we adults as coaches and parents, which puts our kids smack in the middle of it all. I think we’d do everyone a huge favor if we simply reminded ourselves of why our kids get involved in sports…and 99.9999% of the time it is NOT to eventually go pro in that sport so mom and dad can live in comfort for the rest of their lives.

    • February 22, 2011 8:02 am

      Hey there. I do think that there are so many layers to this that it really could be a blog onto its own.

      I am not sure that most parents are necessarily looking at scholarships or at raising professional athletes but sometimes it’s all about squashing the other guy – on and off the court. I think sometimes the parents care too much about winning in the moment regardless of how the coach accomplishes it. I really don’t know if this was an honest mistake by this guy – although on the surface it really did not seem like it – but if this is his normal rotation then shame on the parents on his team too for not standing up for the kids who don’t get to play as much. I just hate the entitled feeling in sports (and frankly life) sometimes that the rules apply to everyone else. It just leaves out/hurts people unnecessarily.

      And then there are those parents who complicate it by thinking that their kids are super stars and that the team revolves around them. Those are the teams that fall apart in the end of the game because one player cannot carry a team, no matter how fabulous he/she is. And those players burn out too – too much pressure – too many expectations. And when it’s too easy when they are young, then everyone catches up, and they have to actually start working at it – it quickly becomes not so fun. I have a whole post brewing in my head about that one too.

      Aren’t you glad you wrote a comment? 😎

  2. Lee permalink
    February 20, 2011 9:28 am

    It really is amazing what some parents and coaches will do to win these games that are supposed to be fun for the kids. We had to deal with one team like that this year in flag football. I wasn’t as nice as you were, though. I was able to hold some things in until the kids weren’t around.

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