Missing the Old School Coaches

June 3, 2019

Chris Metcalf is the regional sports editor of the Batavia Daily News in Batavia, New York. On May 22nd, he wrote a column about “old school coaches,” and stirred up memories of some of the great coaches of the past. Chances are, he may remind you of one of your old coaches or he might even be talking about you. Enjoy!

I miss the old school coach.

A few of them still exist but not nearly as much as they used to 15, 10 and even five years ago.

From my perspective, it seems like parents, school boards, administrators (superintendents) have crushed many of these coaches’ souls and have forced several old school style coaches into stepping away from their coaching profession and into extinction.

I definitely miss the old school coach… You know the coach I am talking about. The type of coach that holds each and every one of his athletes to a higher standard. The coach that instills accountability and discipline into each student-athlete. The coach who preaches high character, on and off the court. The coach that doesn’t mind getting a little loud if he needs to. The same coach that after raising his voice puts his arm around his athlete and tells him how proud he is of their effort.

I miss that coach. A lot. We all do.

You see that’s what the parents and many school administrators don’t see, the soft, genuine side of these old school coaches. They only see the yelling and nothing else. They don’t see the genuine relationships these coaches have with their athletes. There’s nothing more genuine than a player/coach relationship. It’s a real connection. Sometimes it’s not always seen on game nights. Instead, it could be preached in practice on a Thursday night well after the kids have gone home from school. An old school coach doesn’t have a fixed time table on when he preaches accountability, he does it by instinct.

What many of these kids do today when they get home from their coach being tough on them is immediately tell both mom and dad how much they dislike their coach always being “tough” on them. What these kids don’t seem to get from that same mom and dad is telling their kid to “listen to your coach and respect your coach.”

Unfortunately, they don’t get that same type of support many of us used to get from our parents back in the day.

Remember this is a “me” and it’s all about “me” society we live in today.

Coaches aren’t getting the support from the kids’ homes like they used to.

I remember complaining one time to my dad that my coach was really hard on me. “He yells at me more than the others,” I said.

His response, “Don’t worry about him being hard on you, worry about him when he stops being hard.”

That all made sense to me. He was simply telling me to appreciate a coach that was so passionate and driven for me to succeed, and if he did stop being so hard on me there would be a reason for concern.

That’s old school coaching.

I can’t tell you how many highly successful, old school coaches we’ve lost in the past 10 years for various reasons. While several have retired, others have been either forced out by parents’ constant complaining or hidden agendas by school administration to get rid of them.

I know several coaches off the top of my head that have been let go in the past year because they were “too hard on the kids” and parents were complaining so much that administrators forced that coach out just to make the parents happy.

Sad, but true.

I also know a few replacement coaches that have stepped in with hugs and pats on the back for everyone, and their teams are struggling with those same parents that are probably begging for the old coach to come back not only for the victories but the old school values that he took with him. This is happening this spring. One particular team comes to mind.

How about the many other coaches that are afraid to be tough on kids in fear of any repercussions that could come their way because they saw another coach in the building get pushed out. That happens more than people think when a coach is afraid to hold his players accountable because one of their parents is a teacher, administrator, or just a loud parent who complains regularly.

Nine out of 10 times when a parent complains to the administration about a coach it is about playing time. There are parents out there that would rather lose 15 games and see their kid play a lot of minutes rather than win a sectional title and have their kid see the field or court a limited amount of time.

Instead of having kids work harder to “earn” their playing time, some parents feel entitled.

That’s the sad truth with many of today’s parents and administrators.

Now, I will say this, many school’s today have great leadership with their athletic director and superintendent. More so than don’t. But there are some districts out there that cater to parents and would much rather have fewer complaints than more discipline and accountability with their coaches.

In fact, some districts have no loyalty to their coaches. Thankfully not many, but some.

It doesn’t make sense to me.

Ask any consistently, successful coach why he’s been so triumphant over the years and he will point immediately to the loyalty of his administration and parents — I guarantee it.

And if you ask any of those old school coaches’ former players to describe them they would all say the same thing — “discipline, values, high character, and accountability,”

That’s old school.

One recently retired Hall of Fame football coach always told his kids, “It’s not about winning in here, it’s about winning out there 15 and 20 years from now. It’s about winning in life. Winning at being a son, husband and father. That’s when I know you’ve won.”

And yes, that coach did his share of screaming but his kids would run through a wall for him, both back them and even now.

We still have some outstanding coaches that add tremendous value to each program they coach. But the numbers are dwindling each year. Bring back some old school.

We all remember during this past year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament when Michigan State Tom Izzo was shown screaming at one of his players, and even grabbing his jersey. Izzo was upset at freshman Aaron Henry for his lack of effort not hustling back on defense.

For about 24 hours after the incident Coach Izzo was blasted by members of the “soft” media for being too hard on this particular player.

“What’s wrong with challenging a kid that makes some mistakes?’” Izzo said.

Henry certainly didn’t have a problem with Izzo’s style and loved that his coach instilled discipline and accountability.

The same day many of Izzo’s former players came to Izzo’s defense and told everyone that there’s no other coach they would rather play for than Tom Izzo. Forget all about Izzo’s near-perfect graduation rate, they loved the way Izzo made his players — all of them — accountable — not only on the floor but in the classroom as well.

In fact, after all the dust settled, more and more parents are urging their young men to go play for Izzo and the Spartans just because of his passion and accountability.

They don’t come more old school than Tom Izzo.

I miss coaches like Izzo.

— Chris Metcalf is regional sports editor for Batavia Daily News.