Why Coaching Is More Important Than You Think

STACK Expert Rick Scarpulla outlines tough situations for high school athletes and offers advice to both parents and coaches.

Coaching can be tremendously rewarding. You can help athletes have fantastic high school careers and, in some cases, get into top colleges. You can instill a work ethic that lasts a lifetime. On the other hand, a bad coach can completely derail an athlete, especially during the formative high school years.

In many cases, kids spend a long time aspiring to be high school athletes. Many younger athletes play youth league sports and dream of wearing a high school varsity jacket and playing in front of cheering crowds.

Parents often get swept up in the magic as well. After they drive their young athletes from practice to practice and game to game, many dinner and bedtime conversations are about those dreams. Then the young athlete reaches high school, where his or her dreams are about to become a reality.

Suddenly, the math teacher/coach, who seems not to like the youngster for whatever reason, begins to unravel those dreams, because he or she carries a grudge from math class to the field.

The parents tell the kid not to worry about it. The teacher is an adult and will not hold a grudge. But guess what? The teacher is not as mature as the parent thinks, and the young athlete is headed for a high school sport nightmare ride!

The parents see how upset their kid has become over the situation with the coach, and they decide to talk to the coach themselves. Guess what? The same coach who had a bone to pick with the child does not take the parental visit well and goes into the "I am the coach and don't you tell me how to do my job" speech.

This situation can devolve into more frustration for the family and less playing time for the student-athlete. And the playing time the kid does see (usually in mop-up time) is plagued with mistakes, because he or she is nervous about making the best of their limited role and can't get into a rhythm with their teammates. Their confidence is shot.

The effects on the family boil over, and the parents can't help but voice their opinions at home. The coach should be fired. He or she has a reputation for being negative and ruining many players.

It's understandable for parents to feel this way, because the coach has been suspect at times. But all this just confuses the athlete further. The game that they lived for and wanted to play every minute is now causing so much stress on everybody, they can't wait for the season to end.

Advice for Parents

Parents should discuss the situation in a manner that is constructive for the student-athlete, pointing out how in these situations, the coach, like it or not, is the boss, and the player must figure out a way to win the coach over. When an opportunity does arise, they should reaffirm that the athlete needs to capitalize on it. After all, it is difficult for a person—especially a trained professional—to keep beating someone down who is clearly trying hard. Sooner or later, the kid should get a break.

RELATED: 6 Ways Sport Parents Are Doing It Wrong

Advice for Coaches

Too many coaches who are teachers by trade do not realize or understand the distinct difference between working with a student in a classroom and working with an athlete in a team situation. Coaches need to understand that in a classroom, students have to be there. With sports, they volunteer. Most athletes are extremely passionate about the sports they play. Because of that, there is a great deal of emotion involved.

Sports are based largely on confidence and emotion. The mental part of the game is the most valuable piece, yet also the most fragile. We have all heard about coaches who are "players' coaches," meaning the players like them. That is why they are successful. The athletes see that the coach has their backs and is trying to help them get better and cares about how they feel. As a coach, I can tell you firsthand that your greatest asset is a positive relationship with your athletes. Each athlete must feel he or she has a place in your plans and that you care.

Good coaches understand that all athletes need to play the game at their own pace. In a classroom, many teachers go out of their way to make sure the students "get" what they are teaching. Yet on a playing field, some coaches seem to abandon those practices.

Like it or not, a coach will most times carry much more emotional weight to a high school athlete than a teacher will. Go the extra mile with the child who may not be your favorite. That child can bring you a greater emotional reward than a star player can. Coaching a star is easy; it's the other guy who brings you the challenge.

Good coaches deliver their messages in ways that their athletes are willing to receive them, not necessarily the way they would like to deliver them. Take a step back. Don't allow your feelings to get in the way of an athlete's career. That will cause you needless aggravation. It means too much to the athlete for you to make it more stressful than they already make it themselves.

Your true legacy as a coach is not measured by how many wins you racked up, but by how your athletes remember you.

RELATED: 4 Common Mistakes Made When Coaching Young Athletes