Sometimes it’s OK to shut up

Our area’s athletic scene is unique because it’s loaded to the brim with passionate fans who genuinely care about the teams and student athletes.

These people dedicate their time and money, put their butts in the seats and play an active role in the schools and programs they support.

It’s a great thing when it’s done right. But it can be a bit cumbersome when it’s done wrong.

The latter is what I want to address.

See, over the past several years, we’ve had dozens upon dozens of coaching changes at our high schools.

Some are performance-based – the coach just couldn’t cut the muster and wasn’t getting the results the school’s administration had hoped for.

Others are more personal, and the program and coach depart on fairly good terms. Sometimes a better paying position elsewhere opens or even a position completely outside of education. Often times, coaches want to be closer to home or spend more time with their families. No one can fault anyone for that.

But then, there are people who leave for other reasons. These are the folks who leave simply because they’re tired of dealing with the politics, cliques and good ‘ol boy systems that are still in place within the athletic fieldhouses throughout southeastern Louisiana.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had off-the-record conversations with outgoing coaches in the past five years. Sure, on the record, they all say flattering things because the coaching fraternity is tight-knit and one never wants to burn bridges in a small community -1 understand that.

But when you get them to open up and give you the honest truth about their reasons for moving on, the things these coaches accuse parents, faculty and boosters of aren’t always flattering.

We’ve lost a lot of coaches to backdoor politics in my half-decade covering the scene. A lot of times, the person walking out of the door is a pretty dog-gone good coach and an even better person – a coach who usually ends up going to another school and having immediate success.

What’s so interesting is the similarity in these stories.

It all usually involves a parent wanting more playing time for his/her child. It ends up evolving into complaints about practice plans, strategy, routines and everything else that they can complain about just to be heard.

Then it grows.

Other parents who want their children to have a

larger role join the fight and start an all-out movement to revolt against anything the coach does.

Often, the team succeeds, despite heat from its fanbase. But wins, losses and the life lessons the coach is teaching are of no mind. The pack of rebels, push, shove and nitpick until the pressures become unbearable and the coach reaches a breaking point and moves to the next gig-

The rebellious faction rejoices and initially throws its full support toward the new coach. But again, if the wrong kid isn’t playing, the cycle repeats itself and we’re back on that road that usually ends in burn-out and a coaching resignation.

Look around. It’s not a coincidence that the same jobs have come open time and time again in our area.

There’s a reason for that. It’s not the kids. They’ll go along with whatever is happening around them. They don’t want their coaches to leave.

They actually get attached and stay in contact with them once they leave.

If you polled 100 local student athletes from a variety of sports, probably 75 percent of them would say that they like their coach and support his/her decisions, even if it means that the athlete will play less in a game or within the course of a season.

It’s the parents, support staff and boosters that are the problem. They are the ones who often do more harm than good. They are the ones who often yield more power than they should.

So my challenge to those people is when school starts next fall: Sit down, shut up and enjoy the games.

Clap when your team scores, shout encouragement when your team is facing adversity, but leave the head coach, his staff and those employing them alone.

Doing that will make things so much better for all.

I’m getting pretty tired of hearing from outgoing coaches how nasty some of you are in your worst moments.

Sometimes it’s OK to shut up