Here is my first off season Friday Basketball BLOG. The topic was suggested by an MBRer with the user name of “lovethegame” who was the first MBRer to respond with a topic when I asked for basketball topics for my off season weekly basketball BLOG in the BDN. He also was the person who suggested that I do two BLOGS a week instead of one.
It is a topic that many high school coaches, administrators and school boards face here in Maine. That of why it is hard to keep coaches (especially boys and girls basketball coaches) here in Maine for any reasonable length of time.
I have been asked many times why Maine high school boys and girls basketball levels of play is down today. The major reason is not the obvious things people think about, like poor fundamentals, over use of the 3 point shot, playing the game from the shoulders down and not from the shoulders up, low basketball IQ’s which lead to poor basketball decision making which leads to poor shot selection, more turnovers and more personal fouls.
Many Coaches, players, parents and fans who watch the NBA and D-1 basketball in person or on TV think that that is the way the game should be played as an athletic track meet on a rectangular 94′ X 50′ square wooden track of 4,700 square feet. When non-athletes try to play this way an imitate this athletic play then this really contributes to high school basketball being down here in the Pine Tree State.
Those are the obvious reasons, but I am going to get to what I believe is the heart of the matter in which many may not think about when asking why basketball play is down at the high school level. I am going to discuss what I feel is not just one of the biggest reasons boys and girls basketball is down in Maine, but what and why I believe is the biggest reason it is down overall.
This is just my personnel opinion based on my experience of 40 years in education as a basketball coach at the Maine high school basketball level for 29 years, 1 year as a freshmen coach and 3 years as a middle school coach and 16 years as an Athletic Director. Of which 25 years was in public education and 15 years in private education.
This is only my personal opinion, however, quite a few others I have talked to about this topic may possibly think this same way. So to give back to the profession(s) that gave me so much as a Physical Education Teacher grades K-12, a middle school, a high school coach, a Physical Education K-12 Department head and an athletic director I feel obligated and qualified to write on this topic.
It takes at least 4 or 5 years to develop a losing basketball program from the ground up middle school thru varsity at the high school level. Most coaches don’t get the needed time. Some are lucky and can do it but they need the backing and support of their administrators, fans and communities which is not the overall situation here in Maine.
In my coaching days 1962-1977 the average basketball coaching career was 10 plus years, 1987-2000 was 7 years and today it is barely 3 years. This is not just a Maine problem, but a national problem and the reasons for this is the same everywhere. It is many parents being allowed to complain and listened too by the coaches superiors about a coach about either playing time for the parent’s child, team selection, team strategy or wins and losses or some or of all of the above.
There was a time when high school basketball taught that life is not fair for many reasons and now many parents intervene when they think their child is not being treated fairly by their coach, especially about playing time, squad selections, team strategy leading to the teams wins and losses. When parents intervene then they are not giving their children a chance to develop the proper lesson of coping skills they will need that will lead to them to have a more successful and happy life by being able to accept that life is not fair at times and to keep working on in a positive manner. This is an important life skill.
There was also a time when most of the high school coaches where teachers at the school that they coached at or at least in the same school system. Today it is completely reversed as most of today’s coaches are walk ons from outside the school’s system.
I was able to survive a 7 year career, 8 year career and a 13 year career at 3 different high schools here in Maine. We never had athletic contracts for players until around the mid-sixes.
Then in the 70’s I added something to my general high school athletic contract for the players, coaches and the school. It was a parent contract that was part of the athletic contract. It stated that no parent could talk to ANY SCHOOL PERSONNEL from the custodians thru to the school committee president about what I called the “4 Cardinal Rules for Parents”. They were 1. Playing time, 2. team selections, 3. team strategy and 4. other players on the team.
If parents did not sign this contract then their athlete could not try out for a high school basketball team be it the freshmen, JV or varsity squads.
Now the players could ask any of these questions. But they had to ask them in front of the entire team and then after a player did ask and I answered them truthfully in front of their teammates I would then ask if any of the other players had any questions. Then I would tell those that asked too.
There is no question the most used and common complaint from parents is about their boys or girls PLAYING TIME.
Now if it was really the parents that wanted to know why it was about playing time then the player could go back and tell their parents the answer they got in front of their teammates as witnesses and not possibly have to make up something that would please their parents.
Also, after every cut at the freshmen, JV and varsity levels I would have a meeting of those cut for those that wanted to know why they got cut.
As far as strategy was concerned players could ask anytime in front of their teammates. No questions were allowed to be asked about their teammates.
Not many asked, but they had opportunities at any time under the above conditions.
Now whenever I took a basketball coaching or athletic directors job I always showed the people hiring me what they were buying. I would show each a copy of the school, player, coach and parent contract that I used and if they could not support my contract then they should not hire me and of course i wouldn’t take the job. That never happened fortunately.
Because if they said they would back the entire contract including the 4 cardinal rules for parents then I would expect that they would. However, I also told them that if there came a time when I was not backed then I would quit the coaching or AD job on the spot and if I was teaching I would stay until the end of the school year.
I also included that if I resigned that I would hold a press conference the next day to inform the media and public why I quit.
Now a couple of times at different schools I had to remind the administrations of our agreement and when they remembered the agreement that I would quit and hold a press conference they decided it was best for the school and them to back me especially about the “4 cardinal rules for parents”..
People say that time changes, no time doesn’t change a second is still a second, a minute is still a minute and it takes 60 seconds to make a minute, a hour is still an hour and it takes 60 minutes to equal an hour and so on. No time doesn’t change it is people and their ideas and values that change and many times not for the good, like parental interference in breaking the “4 cardinal rules for parents” in athletics.
If parents had other concerns than any of the 4 Cardinal rules they were free to contact me, but I would remind them that if the conversation was leading to any of the 4 cardinal rules then the conversation was immediately over, period end of the talk. As an AD I expected my coaches to do the same thing.
The reason it is easy for parents to complain and get rid of coaches is because the coaches contract is a year-to-year stipend contract and the administrations who bend to the pressure of parents to not rehire a coach do not even have to give the coach any reason. If they give a reason they have to be able to prove it and back it up. Regular classroom teachers are on probation for 3 years and if they get rehired for their 4th years they they get tenure for their careers in that system.
Basketball Coaches are teachers, besides teaching basketball skills they should be “Teaching the life lessons that cannot be taught or learned in the school’s academic classes”. This is an objective of the NFIHSA (National Federation of Interscholastic Athletics) which schools should be following but many don’t. In fact, 5 years ago or so the NFIHSA added “and because many parents do not teach these life lessons” to the original objective because of the increase of many parents going after coaches about their child’s playing time.
In fact, schools that do not teach life lessons as one of it’s main objectives or mission statements of it’s interscholastic athletic programs then to me all they really have is “high priced high school intramural (within a school’s walls) programs were everyone gets to play equal time”. Plus, you cannot teach the proper “life lessons” when parents are allowed to complain to school personnel about any of the 4 cardinal rules for parents.
There is a very simple and effective way to eliminate this negative situation about parent interference with the 4 cardinal rules for parents. If the MPA (Maine Principals Association, the MIAAA (Maine Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association) and the MAC (Maine Association of Coaches) got together and formed a standardized parent, player, coach, school athletic contract that included the “4 cardinal rules for parents” then this problem with parents would not exist. It is time these 3 groups did just that and force schools that want to participate in any of the MPA’s interscholastic athletic programs to use and enforce this contract.
The group mostly effected by parent interference should be the ones to start the ball rolling. The coaches by way of the MBCA (Maine Basketball Coaches Association) a section of the MCA (Maine Coaches Association) by making the recommendation to have a standardized athletic contract including the “4 Cardinal Rules for Parents” to the MIAAA and the MPA.
After all it is the basketball coaches who lose their jobs more than any other of the sports coaches because of parents complaints. If the basketball coaches are not willing to do that, then they shouldn’t complain when they are not rehired because some parents seeking that they not be rehired.
If this standardized parent contract happened, you would see a dramatic increase in the years coaches coached which would allow for Maine high school basketball to improve because the coaches would have the years needed and the time and support to build their programs which would improve the game.
The MPA advertises on the radio that it’s interscholastic athletic programs teach life lessons of the NIHSA and even have added their parent bit. But how can you teach real life lessons properly if parents can complain and get coaches fired.
Along with now having a very weak transfer rule that allows athletes to transfer to another school so long as the parents, athlete, sending and receiving principals of the two schools involved just by signing the MPA’s Transfer Wavier stating that the transfer “Is not for athletic purposes” without any other further proof are eligible right away. This has lead to illegal recruiting and a big increase in transfers when compared to the original transfer rule.
The original transfer rule was the parents and athletes had to change domiciles to be eligible immediately by moving to the town or city the school was in. If they didn’t and they transferred they were ineligible a year from the date of the transfer unless it was to a private high school.
I personally call the MPA’s life lessons, “selective life lessons” as they seem to ignore the biggest 2 problems of all in their athletic programs, parents wanting to call the shots on who coaches or doesn’t coach their basketball players and the weak transfer rule which encourages recruiting and more transfers. Then some administrations wonder why it is so hard to find people that want to coach today in this parental induced environment.
I coached under all of the conditions and rules mentioned above and certainly using the 4 cardinal rules for parents and when we had the original transfer rules these two areas which are so important are consistently broken or ignored and not enforced today in many schools.
I know that the person who suggested this topic wanted me to cover the many reasons for the limited coaching tenures of today’s boys and girls coaches which l listed above in the opening paragraph of this BLOG in more details. But to me before these groups of leaders as coaches, athletic directors and principals can solve the problems many of which are caused by parents will not change in this soft charmin’s generation of society today. Not until the organizations connected with interscholastic high school athletics get together to solve these 2 big problem of parent interference be it breaking the 4 cardinal rules for parents or having them and their athlete sign the MPA transfer Waiver form when it is for athletic purposes when it is supposed to be for “not athletic purposes”.
In order to build a successful basketball program or any other high school athletic program the coaches, administrators, players. communities and parents should all be on the same page and to do that the coaches have to have discipline and the best way to have the needed discipline is to “Teach the life lessons that cannot be taught or learned in the academic high school classrooms and also because many parents do not teach life lessons”. To teach these very important life lessons you need the players, coaches, administrators, community and parents to be all on the same page with a standardized athletic contract for and signed by the players, coaches, school administration and the parents. The MPA, MIAAA and the MAC could do this. But, the BIG question is will they ever do it?
Until this parent situation is solved coaches careers will remain at an average of 3 years or so plus or minus. It is very hard today to find experienced qualified basketball coaches that want to coach in today’s parental situation. Many good coaches lose their jobs or get feed up with the situation an leave the profession.
Also, going back to the original transfer rule would decrease the recruiting problem and the number of transfers per school year.
Here’s an off the cuff solution if the standardized contract never gets accepted.
When a parent gets a coach fired then the parent has to take over the coaching job, until the next parent gets that parent/coach fired and so on as there will probably be a continuous yearly coaching change every year.
However, since I have been doing my “Off the Rim” Basketball Column and Basketball BLOG for the BND and posting on MBR whenever I publicly criticize a person or organization(s) I try to give positive solutions to the situation(s) like I have done in this BLOG about parent interference and the MPA’s current transfer rule.
These possible positive and needed solutions are based entirely on my many years of experience of both situations as a coach, as an athletic director, a member of the MAC, the MBCA as an Eastern Maine coaches representative and serving on MPA’s classification, football and swimming committees over the years as a coaches and AD representative.
Hope this is some what of what “lovethegame” wanted.