No margin for error

Tougher for HS coaches in era of increased scrutiny

When New York Mills boys basketball coach Mike Adey picked up career win no. 500 last Sunday as his Marauders won yet another Section III Class D title at the Carrier Dome, he entered a territory few might ever trod upon again.

The reason is quite simple. All the available evidence of recent times indicates that it’s just too much trouble to be a high school sports coach these days. Even a tremendous amount of success does not insulate the best in the business from the outside pressures thrust upon them.

Just the last 12 months have witnessed the driving out of baseball coach Pete Birmingham at Marcellus and of softball coaching legend Kerry Bennett at Cicero-North Syracuse. In both instances, parents got mad about something, and the powers-that-be sided with them, regardless of the collateral damage.

Even a program like Fayetteville-Manlius is not immune. Paul Muench stepped away from his football coaching position despite solid success for more than a decade. The scheduling snafu that derailed the hockey Hornets may have led to Sean Brown’s departure. Even Tom Blackford talked about retiring after F-M’s boys basketball team was ousted in the Class AA semifinals.

What is going on here? If this trend continues, the question needs to be asked – is high school sports in serious trouble?

Taken by themselves, coaching ousters are easily rationalized, explained or excused. Of course there was reason to take this action – something happened that, in the minds of the kingmakers, was so reprehensible that drastic measures were required.

Put together, though, the conclusion is far different. These actions reflect a disturbing trend in our culture, where a sense of entitlement leads to a socially accepted behavior that, while negative, is more tolerated than ever.

First, let’s explain the entitlement part. When a parent has a son or daughter on a high school sports team, it’s something to be proud of. It gives them a chance to cheer on their kid at games, and share that experience with fellow parents who share the same feeling of pride.

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