Another parent complaining or a problem of Nepotism in school sports programs?
By Steven Booth
March 07, 2022
The prohibition of nepotism is a common rule in many organizations for good reason. Nepotism has been defined as a form of favoritism, which is granted to relatives in various fields, including business, politics, entertainment, sports, and other activities. Nepotism in youth sports seems to be a field in which there are few recommended policies or regulations.
Non-interscholastic youth sports programs like KDL rely on volunteers, and it is difficult to find coaches with the interest in coaching unless they have a child in the program. This is understandable; however, these situations are not without many parents complaining about the disparate playing time the coach’s child is getting over their child, regardless of the player’s skill level.
High School coaches are under contract to the School District, certified by ASAA, and the stakes are higher when youth are in competition not only on the court but also for scholarships that affect future educational opportunities. With these huge financial benefits, there are incentives to take an advantage by using their position as coach/teacher and artificially elevate their child’s status. This is where the appearances of corruption gain their roots.
When these problems become obvious parents start to talk, gossip and plot, yet, parents fear confrontation or fear retaliation towards their child in the form of either deliberate or subliminal resentment and, as expected, there is a decrease in trust, morale and commitment from unrelated players. “There is no ladder to climb when the top rung is reserved for people with a certain name."
The coach’s child should be given the same opportunity as all the players. In other words, the coach’s child is given a spot on the team while a sophomore, junior, or senior player is sitting on the bench when they otherwise might be playing and for no other apparent reason than they happen to be the coach's child. What parent wouldn’t do all they could to see their child gain an advantage, besides that the coach has earned that right, haven’t they?
Diverting from the normal course of a typical high school basketball program, for an example, is when the Head Coach selects their freshman child to play on the varsity team. Selection of a freshman to the varsity team would normally be reserved for an extremely exceptional basketball player. Judgement of basketball skills is, to a certain degree, subjective. There is no formula to find the best player in a pool of good players, but exceptionalism is not hard to spot. It is the extraordinary and extraordinary is big, it is amazing, and it is beautiful and you know it when you see it. You see it when a freshman can score 30 points in a single quarter at the JV level, while also keeping in mind we live in a very small community. That is what leads to the pure definition of, “a big fish, small pond”.
The issue is not about the myopic view of 'a coach “coaching” his or her child’" "in of itself." It is about the actions of the parent coach, “coaching” his or her child that is at the heart of the problem in high school sports programs.
It is because these sports programs carry with them the possibility of large financial benefits, that it has been suggest that the ASAA and the School District needs to address situations "when" the "coaches are “coaching” their child" does become a problem. This should be done with the development of policy that specifically addresses the issues of nepotism. As it stands today, it is up to each individual coach to monitor his or her own conflicts of interest, fairness to the other players and their child. The institution that certifies these coaches and the institution that hires them does not have any policy to hold coaches accountable for nepotism in school sports despite the appearances of corruption of financial gain over other players who did not get the same opportunity to play for scholarships. It is not a fair playing field.
Parents can only hope that their children end up with a decent coach, because parents cannot necessarily chose their child’s coach in schools. They can only hope that their coach helps them grow into leaders. However, in many cases, parents are stuck with the coach that teaches their child how to follow; follow instructions to the letter of the coach, and if they do not follow the instructions correctly and they make a mistake, the child is yelled at and punished for that mistake. These coaches take their frustration and anger out on the player and then mistakenly call it “motivation”. It is every parent’s hope that their coach’s philosophy when teaching the child is clear about telling them what they need to do to be successful, showing them how they need to do it and why they do it the way they are doing it. Mistakes are going to be made and it is important that they learn from those mistakes. Then teach them how to be a leader by having them teach the newer players what to do, how to do it and why they do it. Leaders are grown and not by transplanting a child to a position, they did not earn simply because of nepotism, and all parents should be opposed to that practice. It creates a negative culture in the program and, is not in any way, how to behave, as an example of a Professional Teaching Practice. “The eight laws of learning are explanation, demonstration, imitation, repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition” JW
The player has not learned until the coach has taught and that requires that the coach is teaching the right way, the right things and they can only teach what they know. The ASAA’s Code of Ethics requires (*shall) “the coach to be aware that he has a tremendous influence, on the education of the student and, shall never place the value of winning (*or his child?) above the value of instilling the highest ideals of character. It follows that the coach should model the highest ideals of character by treating all players equally”. Nepotism flies in the face of this code of ethics and because of that it should put this question in all parent’s mind’s “what is the coach teaching my child?” (*added by the author of this opinion)
There are good people who take those coaching ethics and mission statements that ASAA uses as window dressing for their website, much more seriously than others do. Perhaps they also realize the total impact of their coaching philosophy can have on every child, as they coach the team, and their child. As a volunteer coach and having played basketball in college, I am aware, as all coaches should, how a careless word or action, can affect the development of these player/ students.
What a good coach does well, is foster synergism between the coach and player, with trust, accountability, responsibility, fairness, consistency, and a belief in a player’s ability to play up to their very best that they are capable of playing. Self-confidence is the cornerstone of great performance, and that confidence comes from what players say to themselves. Teens are prone to get their self-worth through having favor, being liked, and accepted. The coach informs the players with his or her words, body language and behaviors and these are the ques that young players take to inform themselves of what they say about themselves. What happens with nepotism by the coach can cause them to discount their sense of belonging by lowering their status of approval by artificially elevating the coach’s child above other players. When the coach plays their child, ahead of a player for no other reason than that child is the coach’s child, it destroys trust, and it says I believe and care for my child more then I believe and care for you. The players on the team know what is what and who has the skill to play at the higher level.
A coach that treats one student with favoritism because that student happens to be his family does not uphold the mission to advocate for equitable participation and foster healthy competition for ALL students. The coach’s child might be given privileges that are not available to other students in the program, such as, classes they cannot be enrolled in like high school basketball 101, practicing with the high school team as a middle-school student, and off season camps that were only communicated to a select few players and of course the coach’s child.
This issue effects the older more experienced players who are compromised by nepotism. These high school students normally have 3-4 years to realize their individual goals in the interscholastic sport program. They cannot get a “re-do” of any of these years because the coach's actions affected them negatively, and because of the ASAA's and School Districts unwillingness to address the issue with meaningful reform. This is for the older players, and at the urging of parents and others in the community to address problems of favoritism, perceived or real, and conflicts of interest, that creates this unfairness to team players.
The history of ASAA has shown that this is something that needs to be addressed by the State Legislature through a new bill that addresses nepotism in school sports programs, and use this example to support that bill, so as to, help ASAA and the school districts develop and adopt new bylaws, policies, and procedures for their handbooks.
This will take more than one parent trying to make this change; this will take everyone who has the courage to have their voice’s be heard and be counted. Stop the gossip and talking in whispers when you think no one else is listening. Stand up for your child and for the growing of leaders in the program. If not, you are being an example to your child to just go along to get along, and to be the follower because it is believed that this is just how it has always been done.
Steven G Booth
Received March 07, 2022 - Published March 06, 2022
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