Is parental involvement paring coaching ranks?


March 30, 1994|By BILL FREE

Where have all the coaches gone?

Away from the playing fields and courts.

That is the scenario in Carroll County over the past 16 months, as 16 varsity coaches -- about 19 percent of the coaching staff countywide -- have left or announced plans to leave coaching assignments. Sources say that's an unusually large turnover, at least in recent years.

No coach has voiced controversial reasons for leaving.

But one has to wonder if the reasons for many of those resignations and retirements don't involve the increased pressures every coach faces these days from parents.

Here are just three instances that show the level of involvement by parents in the games their children play.

Last May during a softball game at Liberty High, the mother of a Liberty player went to the Liberty bench during a game and demanded to talk to the coach. She wanted to know why her daughter was not getting a chance to hit in the lineup instead of being a designated fielder.

The woman was told she would have to wait until the game was over to talk to the coach and that she would have to leave the bench area during the game.

So what did the woman do?

She sat behind the bench in her folding chair and said she would stay there until she talked to the coach. And she remained there until the end of the game.

Then there was a rather ugly situation during a hotly contested state Class 2A regional field hockey championship game last fall at North Carroll.

Liberty, the underdog, was battling North Carroll for a berth in the state 2A tournament when a North Carroll player inadvertently hit a Liberty player while going for the ball.

As the Liberty player lay on the ground for a couple of minutes before getting up, an incensed Liberty parent screamed that the North Carroll player "should be beat up."

Also, one recent fall a Francis Scott Key parent became so upset when her daughter lost her position on the cross country team to a surprising freshman that the parent wrote a nasty letter to The Baltimore Sun, which was never published. The missive basically ripped apart the freshman, the Key coach and anybody who said good things about the freshman.

Those kinds of incidents can only help drive coaches away from the jobs where the money is not all that good to start with.

John Magee, who resigned 15 months ago as Liberty's head football coach, came the closest among those interviewed to addressing the new pressures on high school coaches.

"It's like you have a bulls-eye on your back," said Magee who still teaches at Liberty. "You can mess up in the classroom and nobody says anything, but if you call the wrong play during a game everybody is all over your back. After a while, some coaches say why take all this grief for a few thousand dollars. Coaching and teaching are more difficult these days."

Magee said that the entire high school coaching and teaching scene has changed since he was in school.

"Coaches and teachers were once respected in the community, and it carried over into high school athletics," he said. "That's why a lot of people went into teaching and coaching. Now, coaches seem to be questioned openly by parents who usually take their kid's side. The same is true a lot of times for teachers."

Jim Bullock, who resigned as Francis Scott Key cross country coach last summer, refused to comment on parental involvement problems and insisted that he left his job to become assistant principal at Runnymeade Elementary School.

Bullock took over the Key girls program when it had just one runner and built it into a program that was good enough to challenge Westminster for first place in the county and finish third in the state 1A championships two straight years.

Bullock even built a new cross country course for the school.

Other major resignations or retirements in the past 16 months include: Maryland State Wrestling Hall of Famer Dick Bauerlein, who coached 19 incredible seasons at North Carroll; Bill Hill, who guided the Westminster boys track and field team to 13 straight county titles in 15 seasons; Phil Bonnell, who coached the North Carroll softball team to two state championships in seven years, and longtime successful North Carroll volleyball coach Linda Richards.

Others who gave up coaching jobs include: Randy Clark (football and baseball at North Carroll), Jeff Oeming (football at Westminster), Gene Brown (lacrosse at South Carroll but he is still football coach), Bryan Harman (baseball at Liberty), John Lynam (boys tennis at North Carroll after 17 seasons), Chris Kraft (boys lacrosse at North Carroll), Solomon Carr (wrestling at Westminster), Jim Langrall (boys lacrosse at Liberty), Stacey Abeles (girls lacrosse at North Carroll) and Karol Brown (volleyball at Westminster).

Lynam is stepping down at the end of this season.

The official reasons given by those coaches for getting out include: "Too old, too tired, retiring to Florida, heart problems, wanting a chance to watch my children participate in sports, need more time to go hunting, going into school administration, just not getting the results I want, and time to move on to something else."

But one has to wonder how many coaches would have stayed if parents weren't trying to call the shots so much these days.

Certainly no coach should be put on a pedestal and given license to do anything he or she wants to impressionable youngsters.

But a coach does need a certain amount of freedom to run a program the way he or she sees fit.

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