From the desk of Wally Dawkins, Athletic Director:
I was the last one out of the gym that night.
We had just lost our final game of the season to Colorado City. The loss meant we would not reach the .500 mark for the season. This was a big deal to me due to the fact that the Clyde High School Boys Basketball Team had only won three games in the two years prior to my arrival as the head coach. My goal was to go 14-14 in my first year, but the loss to C-City meant we finished at 13-15.
As I walked out the front gym doors, my car was the only vehicle in the lot, and it was parked under the only street light.
As I approached the dimly lit area, I noticed three women leaning on the hood of my car, and the one in the center was the mother of Kenneth O’Shields, my back-up point guard. As I approached the three I greeted them with a “Hello Ladies”.
I quickly realized this was not a courtesy call as Mrs. O’Shields leaned forward off of the hood and angrily replied “You embarrassed Kenneth tonight”!
Though taken aback, I responded calmly by saying “Mrs. O’Shields…I’m sorry but I am not sure I know what you’re talking about”.
At that point, the remaining two women joined Mrs. O’Shields in an upright position facing me.
By the looks on their faces, I recognized they were not friendly representatives from The Welcome Wagon. All three of women began yelling various obscenities while rendering a not so flattering critique of my coaching ability. Due to the unfriendliness of the situation, I gracefully recused myself into the front seat of my Olds Cutlass. As I slowly backed out of the parking lot, I kept my eyes on the women, all three of whom were now hitting the hood of my car with their purses. My exit left the three crazed women standing under that one dimly lit street lamp, continuing to cuss and fuss at me, in what could have been a scene from an Alfred Hitchcock movie.
Over my 35 year coaching career, I’ve had hundreds of experiences with parents of players I coached, and the vast majority of those interactions have been overwhelmingly positive. Several however, like the instance with Mrs. O’Shields, are the kind you could write a book about.
I had a parent whose son wasn’t getting to play send me a “Basketball For Dummies” book in the mail for Christmas one year. Another time I had a parent write a letter to the editor of a local paper complaining of my coaching abilities, and the paper printed it (I just thought the editor of the paper must agree with the author of the letter). On another occasion, my Superintendent brought me a copy of a piece of certified mail from a dad demanding that I be terminated since I was a “the sorriest coach in history”. It just so happened that we had a huge district game that night against Jacksonville. The man’s son was a back-up guard and due to an injury, had received limited playing time for the past few weeks. That night however, the starting guard was ejected for fighting midway through the 1st Quarter. The man’s son went in at that point and played the entire game scoring 14 points. After the game, the excited father approached me and stuck out his hand.
“Great game coach” he happily exclaimed.
I guess he didn’t realize the Superintendent had given me a copy of the letter he had written until I looked at him, shook my head from side to side, and said “Don’t even try it”.
I guess he assumed that trying to get me fired was no big deal. I took it fairly serious.
Probably the worst of all was a parent who was also a school board member. The man’s son was not very good, and he quit the team. His reason was that as a senior, he just wanted to go home at 3:00 instead of practice every day and enjoy his senior year. In the spring however, at a school board meeting, the boys father proposed to the rest of the board that I be fired, and he apparently became quite animated and upset when presenting the recommendation. It bugged me at the time when I was informed of his attempt to have me ousted. But later I was grateful since in another fit of raged he shot and killed a guy who owed him money. I was thankful at that point that he only wanted me fired! He remains in prison to this day.
Most of the situations I have experienced cause me to look back now and simply smile. I truly understand how parents become frustrated when their child doesn’t play much, especially if their child is hurting from the lack of playing time. As parents, it is said that “we are only as happy as our most miserable child”. Think about that one! I know from experience that is a true statement. If one of my children is hurting, I am not happy, and which sometimes causes us to react in an uncharacteristic manner.
Let me encourage you, parents, when you have a situation with a coach at any level that needs addressing, consider setting up a meeting with your child’s coach, and to privately and calmly as adults, discuss solutions. I think you will find that the desired result will be much more attainable through this method than sending nasty emails, making negative comments on Facebook, or confronting the coach in public.
The incident with Kenneth O’Shields mother happened on the last Friday night of basketball season. The very next evening she called me and apologized for her behavior, explaining that she had been drinking, and that Kenneth’s feelings had been hurt since he did not get to play much. Fast forward one year; Kenneth O’Shields became a starter on the Clyde Varsity Boys Basketball Team who were District Champions, Bi-District Champions, Area Champions, and advanced to the Regional Tournament in Red Raider Coliseum in Lubbock, Texas.
All of which made Mrs. O’Shields a very proud and happy momma.
Just another reason to be “ALL ORANGE…All The Time”