How to Fix the “Youth Sports Coaching” Problem?

A friend’s son, an 11th grader, is a very good SoCal basketball player. He wants a college scholarship, but his team is poorly coached, so attracting the attention of college coaches is more difficult. His team lost one game 70-62 after being up 60-45 after three! I do not know if their mascot is the Cougars.*

My friend really knows basketball and is exasperated at the coach’s incompetence. Granted, too often, overly subjective and meddlesome parents of young athletes are part and parcel of the problem, but that’s not my focus here. My focus is on the amazing discrepancy between what we require of beginning teachers versus coaches. Coaches are educators, for some student-athletes, even more influential ones than teachers. Yet all we tend to require from them is some CPR and child abuse training. We hope they “know” their sport inside and out and how to interact positively with their athletes. More generally, we hope they have the necessary dispositions to inspire their athletes to not just athletic, but life success.

Consider the economics of the problem. The aforementioned high school basketball coach gets $2,800 for the season, meaning way less per hour than his athletes earn at their weekend jobs. So the supply of coaches is severely limited. That means high school athletic directors are loathe to fire any coach that isn’t breaking the law. That is, as long as the parents’ protests are manageable, which they usually are since frustrated parents turn over every few years, meaning they never get sufficiently organized.

Given the paltry stipends coaches receive, it’s unrealistic to expect them to undergo any training remotely similar to student teachers. So what to do absent more incentives for outstanding educators to consider coaching? Could a more thorough and thoughtful interview process weed out incompetent and/or unkind coaches-to-be? Only if there’s more candidates to choose from right? And so we’re back to the stipends.

I really don’t know the answer to the question. A few outstanding high school coaches read the humble blog. Maybe they’ll enlighten us.


*inside Washington State joke; Scottie, love you as always


4 thoughts on “How to Fix the “Youth Sports Coaching” Problem?

  1. Every coach and parent should read “The Tears and The Cheers” about unrealistic parental and coaching expectations. Sports are above all to be FUN. In schools, I think all coaches should have teaching degrees and preferably be in building. Also, there should be a limit on practice time and practicing on weekends and holidays. Perspective

  2. I’m confused. You say that a high school basketball coach gets $2800 for a season. That would be in addition to his regular teacher’s salary, I would think. Other teachers, not in the athletic field, give countless hours to help with after school activities. I’m not aware that they are ever paid. In Canada, to the best of my knowledge, all coaches do the job gratis, as part of their teaching. I’m not advocating that all teachers be paid for their volunteer work, although teacher’s salaries are never high enough for what they do. Just trying to understand this!

  3. Interesting difference. Yes, in the U.S. it’s on top of the base salary. Lots and lots more hours than a club sponsor or something similar. Some coaches are teachers, but some schools can’t find enough teachers so they extend their searches to include non-educators.

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