Brainerd Warriors head boys basketball coach Scott Stanfield is a retired police officer, and with one comment may have summarized the feelings of many high school coaches across the state, and across the country.
“I go from being a cop to this, and it’s one stressful job to another and it’s time for a break,” Stanfield said. “Coaching was worse. Coaching has been way worse.
“If you win, it doesn’t matter. If you lose, it doesn’t matter. If their kid doesn’t get enough playing time—look out.”
Stanfield’s frustrations are nothing new in the high school sports world, as kids have been more and more coddled and told that they are the next LeBron, Curry, or heaven forbid…Jordan. For the man in his seventh season as the Warriors’ head coach (22nd season in the program), those frustrations reached a climax, as last week, Brainerd High School activities director Charlie Campbell sent out a letter explaining this would be Stanfield’s last year. Stanfield and his entire coaching staff will resign following this season. The reason—some parents.
According to the letter: “It is hard for any of our coaches, including coach Stanfield, to find joy in this vocation when met with a general dissatisfaction, anger and/or hostility from an increasing number of parents.”
Stanfield said it started to grow last year and has spilled over into this season. “It was after an away game, and over the year it just kind of hit a boiling point, and it was time to re-evaluate what we’re doing as a school, maybe as a staff, and maybe as a parental community,” Stanfield said. “We’re not on the same page as far as what we want our kids to get out of the experience. A lot of times with high school sports, we’re running two different roads with the AAU ball and the school ball. “Unfortunately, one side wants things done one way and the other wants it the correct way, which is about educating our kids for life beyond a sport. That’s what we’ve tried to do.”
Stanfield stressed it was just some parents, and the majority of parents he’s dealt with have been great. He said despite his many years in the program, and his immense pride in helping student athletes become better in their sport, the decision wasn’t hard.
“The difficult part was with the kids coming back next year,” Stanfield said. “The difficult part was telling them that, physically and emotionally, I’m drained. I need to look at things and take care of myself and … maybe be involved somewhere else.”
In his first six seasons, Stanfield accumulated a 99-66 career record, including his second season, which resulted in a 28-2 record and a spot in the Class 4A state tournament. Brainerd suffered only two losing seasons in Stanfield’s tenure, including last year’s 11-16 mark.
“On the basketball side, I think we changed the culture player-wise,” Stanfield said. “Unfortunately, the parental culture the last couple of years hasn’t come with us and that’s been very difficult.
“I want to make sure I say that the backing of the majority of the parents is real. They are behind me 100 percent. Over the last week, I’ve felt that from parents whose kids I coached in the past to this year’s parents. The bulk of the parents are very supportive. It’s just kind of a group over the last couple of years that have weighed on my mind. “As far as playing time for a kid, it’s a battle and it’s unfortunate that in basketball you can’t play more kids.”
Stanfield said he’s talked to coaching friends and many feel his frustrations. This is a problem across the country, however, and the answer is elusive.
“I don’t know what it will take, but unfortunately, I think it starts at a very young age,” Stanfield said. “Parents feel invested once they pay their way through the AAU experience and the travel experience. They have a lot of time and money invested in that. When the kids reach high school, and they become varsity players no matter what grade—you’re basically bringing ninth- through 12th-grade players together—all four classes together and when they see their investment in time and money not paying off, I think they get a little upset. They see it as wasted time, when in fact, if they could take a step back and look at school-based athletics and the great things a kid can get out of it.”
After a 5-1 start, Brainerd is suffering through a five-game losing streak. There are 15 games left on the schedule and Stanfield said he’s all in for those 15 games. He believes his players are as well.
“I gave it everything I got,” Stanfield said. “This year, we’re not done. The kids know that and I know that. We’re going to keep fighting, but I haven’t felt good for a month because of it. “It’s just not worth it. If this can help bring some attention to the fact that something needs to change, then it’s worth it, but the vast majority of parents are very supportive.”
Stanfield’s story seems like a rare occurance, however, we wish that was only the case. As parents become more “invested” in their kids, as Stanfield put it, they feel that coaches “owe” them playing time, and their kid to succeed, when in reality, that isn’t the case. Coaches, take things as objectively as they can, and do what they feel is right to win games. Sure, sometimes they’re wrong, but they’re human, and what happens to these coaches, as well as referees, is astonishing.
In a Telegram & Gazette survey of 369 Central Mass. head coaches, 40.2 percent said they have been threatened verbally by a parent, while 8.7 percent said they have been threatened physically. While 88.6 percent of the coaches said their school administrators support them in conflicts with parents, 60.1 percent said dealing with parents has gotten worse since they began coaching and 35.5 percent said they have quit or considered quitting coaches because of parents.
“It has made many parents believe their kid is a superstar and should either play more and be more involved than their current role is on the team,” said Ryan Renauld, who coaches soccer, basketball and softball at Bartlett, a top school in Mass.
First-year boys’ basketball coach Mike Byrnes hasn’t had any issues in his short time at Shepherd Hill, but as the owner and director of the Central Mass. Swarm AAU program, he has seen — more times than he can count — deplorable parent behavior.
“I’ve seen parents come out onto the court and challenge referees to fights, and I’ve seen parents threaten coaches and each other with physical violence,” Byrnes said. “It’s disturbing.”
All I can honestly say after researching these stories is really? Are parents really becoming that petty over playing time? You can’t honestly tell me that your parents did anything even remotely close to that when you were playing, if you even played. What gives your kid, or yourself the right to demand playing time, and absolutely disrespect people like Stanfield and others who have given decades of their life to the sport they love, and to hundreds of kids to help with their development in life?
If you are one of these parents, you need to take a good hard look in the mirror and ask yourself who you are really fighting for. Are you actually concerned about the wellbeing of your kid, or just a return on your investment? Take some responsibility for your actions, respect the great men and women who pour their heart and soul into the game, and if your kid isn’t getting any playing time, they just flat out suck. End of discussion.
Lastly, we at Pro Sports Extra just want to thank the coaches who continue to work on developing our youth to become great men and women, and teach them valuable life lessons through sports. You are some of our country’s greatest teachers, and we want to shed light on such a terrible issue in today’s sports, and to show parents what happens when you take things too far.