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Goon: Coaching a tougher biz than it used to be

Published November 10, 2012 9:08 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Heavy is the neck of he who wears the practice whistle.

Didn't it used to be coaches had the power? And yet, it seems there's another one losing his or her job everywhere you look.

Mike Brown is just the latest victim, and maybe the best poster boy. He had just come out of a job where he had been fired to appease one superstar — was taking a job in Los Angeles coaching Kobe Bryant really the best move for him?

In baseball, there's been a rash of guys getting booted off the hot seat into the fire. Boston let Terry Francona, a two-time series winner and legendary curse-breaker, walk. A season later, they asked Bobby Valentine not to let the door hit him on the way out.

The Florida Marlins hired Ozzie Guillen, then when Ozzie Guillen started being himself, he was gone.

The NFL is a revolving door of coaches. Every franchise is quick to hire the hot assistant, then let him go once it's clear the spark is gone. Todd Haley, Josh McDaniels, Mike Singletary, Hue Jackson — the NFL coaching graveyard is littered with those names that once stoked everyone's interests, that owners just had to get.

Debate the merits of these coaching changes if you want, but time after time, it seems that teams got what they wanted, only to learn that that wasn't what they wanted.

And here's the problem: It's a trickle-down trend.

Coaches in pro leagues, and even coaches in major college sports, have the perks of big contracts. After some of the guys previously mentioned moved on, they still had money to keep them warm, for the most part.

But what about high school coaches? What about youth coaches?

Think about the folks who volunteer their time or get paid a meager sum that doesn't truly reflect the hours they work.

Many of them do it out of a desire to shape the character of young people. There aren't many higher purposes in this world. Some coach for the wrong reasons, sure, but the vast majority coach out of selflessness, out of a desire to make a difference.

But now, maybe more than ever, coaching takes its toll. Count the hours of watching film, running practice, cleaning up facilities and the field and whatever it takes to make sports happen for kids. And then they deal with unhappy players and unhappy parents, maybe because one kid doesn't play enough or because the team doesn't win enough.

Every year, it seems like the long-tenured coaches are slowly stepping away, and younger coaches take a step away to spend more time at home. The truth is it's harder and harder to deal with the melodrama that accompanies coaching, moreso than the coaching itself.

The next time you feel an urge to give a coach a piece of your mind, ask yourself what you hope your child is getting out of an athletic experience. Is it character? Is it work ethic? Is it an ability to deal with adversity? A willingness to work with a team?

This is what many coaches preach, what many coaches try to get players to learn. More than winning, more than playing time, that's what the goal of youth sports pretty much is.

If that's not what you want, then why play at all?