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By Dan Bauer, 05/16/13, 7:30PM CDT


“A coach is someone who tells you what you don't want to hear, who has you see what you don't want to see, so you can be who you have always known you could be.”

The legendary coach Tom Landry said, “A coach is someone who tells you what you don't want to hear, who has you see what you don't want to see, so you can be who you have always known you could be.”

Sometimes coaching is nasty work.  Pushing players outside their comfort zone is a primary duty of any coach.   It is the catalyst to growing physically as a player and emotionally as a person.  No pain, no gain is a well-tested mantra endorsed by the athletic world.

At the risk of sounding too “old school” the reality is players have always whined about coach’s methods.   The modern day difference is many no longer believe that there is value in being uncomfortable—in getting pushed outside your comfort zone.  It seems uncomfortable kids create uncomfortable parents.  

As each season ends, the coaching carousel starts turning as a minority of frustrated parents, often lacking a significant athletic background, begin texting and phone calling like spurned school girls.  They are certain the coach has sabotaged their son or daughter’s college scholarship and their team’s championship season.  Athletic Directors field phone calls like they were selling tickets for a Beatles reunion.  

The squeaky wheels of uncomfortable parents don’t just want grease, they want a new car.

Young coaches are chastised for their inevitable growing pains and veteran coaches scrutinized for not producing enough wins.  These coaching firing squads are fueled by parents who are more interested in holding coaches accountable than they are their own kids.  There was a time when school administrators ignored this subjective information and discarded it like an anonymous letter.  

With alarming frequency parents are brought in or sent surveys to evaluate their children’s coaches.  The perspective and information they bring to the table is almost exclusively second hand.  Having coached for over thirty years now, I know unequivocally that the stories that go home are a biased version of what actually happened and not necessarily the truth.  Second hand information spreads without regard for accuracy.  While parents may be experts at over-estimating their child’s athletic ability, they are ill-prepared to objectively evaluate coaches.

Common sense is all you need to understand that this is a flawed process.  In Minnesota they are actually considering legislation to do away with these parent tribunals.  When we have to pass laws to insure common sense we all look bad.

It would be irresponsible to assume all of these firings disguised as resignations were unfounded and caused by extreme parents.  Unethical coaches are uncovered at an alarming rate.  I have heard profanity laced rants from the other side of the locker room wall and heard war stories of extreme measures used to punish players.  Some “old school” methods that have been tolerated by a past society more interested in accountability than progressive orthodoxy are still being used.  This is not an attempt to defend those extreme methods.

The “suck it up” mentality of the Lombardi era has been replaced by “coach, why are we doing this?”  Because I said so is no longer an adequate answer.  Most of the complaints I hear about coaches is that they are too hard on their players or too demanding.  Instilling virtues like sacrifice, discipline and work ethic is a tremendous challenge in today’s spongy society.  Many of our players are unfamiliar with being uncomfortable, much less pushed or prodded to perform.  The line that divides acceptable from taboo methods of discipline and demand can be razor- thin.  One is a learning experience; the other a newspaper headline.  Making your child uncomfortable, should not be grounds to dismiss a coach.  College professors and bosses will be much more demanding.

Coaches are programmed to do what is best for the team.  Parents are instinctively wired to do what is in their rose-colored vision best for their child.  Administrators serve as judge in this trial of diametrically opposed philosophies.  It becomes an unfair situation when parents are selected for the jury.

We should be much more uncomfortable with these parental lynch mobs than the hard lessons coaches are trying to teach every day.  There is much more to gain from a challenging athletic experience than another mommy and daddy bailout.    

Hard work and discipline can be uncomfortable—but learning their value is without equal.

Dan Bauer is the head hockey coach at Wausau East High School.  You can contact him at