What is a head coach?

By Mark Carpenter – 

It’s no big secret that head basketball coaches have been the talk of the county for the past week after the unfortunate resignation on Manchester boys coach Joey Darnell. I know Coach Darnell might regret all of the situation, but I also know that he, like other coaches, was only doing what he though was best for his team after they had put together back to back lackluster performances. But hindsight is 20/20 and as I write this, the Greyhounds are still coach less, which is not fair to anyone involved, especially a group of boys who have to be wondering where their season is headed. I have a ton of respect for Coach Darnell and what he does and wish things had turned out differently.
The whole fiasco got me to thinking about what a head coach really needs to be. That definition has certainly changed in the past few decades. In this age of entitlement, being a head coach at any level, but especially high school, is a challenge beyond challenges. If you don’t believe me, just sit and watch the facial expressions and read the lips of some of the parents in the stands, which of course makes being a coach’s wife even a more difficult job, dealing with those who have no tact.
A high school basketball coach has to be a teacher. Even if he/she is not actually in a classroom, they are teaching every day, and not just the game of basketball, but the game of life. We have so many coaches in this county who are outstanding role models and would do anything in their power to help their kids, but that always seems to get lost in the shuffle when little Johnny isn’t get his fair share of playing time. Trust me on this one-I coached at numerous levels for two decades and it is almost laughable sometimes what parents and fans get upset about, but you just have to deal with it and keep doing your job, and that is not an easy task.
For better or worse, a high school basketball coach has to be a politician- not the speak out of both sides of your mouth kind, but one who can deal with all the politics involved with high school sports. It’s not the 1950’s anymore, where the high school coach ruled the roost with an iron fist and was the most visible person in a small town. Norman Dale, anyone? Unfortunately in 2017, too many athletic programs are ruled by outside forces, making it an impossible situation for those on the inside.
These days a high school coach also has to be a parent in many situations, and that’s not just if their own kid plays for them. So many high school kids today are looking for structure and guidance, and that two hours in the gym each day gives them that. As you hear often, they could be in worse places doing worse things. Many of the things that our local coaches do above and beyond the call of duty for their players goes untold, but believe me, it might make you think twice before criticizing, but that kind of thing just doesn’t seem to matter as much any more. Yes, winning is the bottom line, but like it or not, there are more important things and for 99% of the players in our local high schools, their careers will end when their senior seasons end, so a few life lessons along the way might just be a pretty good thing.
What many don’t seem to understand is that playing high school sports is a privilege, it’s not something that the school owes your kid. Instead of trying to destroy the experience for everyone, how about supporting the coach and team no matter what. I have been there with my own two kids, who were both good athletes, but who had totally opposite experiences in high school sports, one with great coaches and the other who had to deal with coaches who had no concept of why they were coaching high school sports. But guess what, they both survived and I am proud to say they are both quite successful in all that they do.
Everyone thinks their child is the next LeBron, but it doesn’t work that way. Try to remember that, lower your expectations and dial back the pressure, and remember that the coach on the sidelines is only making decisions, whether you thing they are right or wrong, that he/she thinks are the best for his team and his kids. We’ve gone past Pee-Wee where every little one plays, so it’s time to set the example in the stands and at home. Support your coach, support your team, in good times and bad. Make some good memories- years from now, you will be glad you did.