April 30, 2017

When it’s parents vs. coaches, kids can’t win

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Courtesy Tom Ash Little League

Overzealous parents chased out a championship-winning coach in Braintree. So, where does that leave the kids?

“Where I think it crosses the line is when we have a call for volunteers and no one volunteers to be a coach. Then when the season starts, everyone wants to have their say and their kids taken care of.” — Nick D’Andrea, East Side Babe Ruth official

The relationship between a sports coach and parent can be a balancing act.

Like the courts and fields where the young athletes play, there are boundaries — literal and figurative — and sometimes they get crossed.

Many of those involved in local high school and youth sports know there is a segment of parents who overstep the bounds. Beyond supporting their child and the team, more and more, it seems, they leap into a search for some kind of control in order to ensure what’s best for their child — more playing time, more accolades, more notice — whether earned on the playing field or not.

A recent prominent example of parents crossing the unmarked boundaries of involvement with interscholastic sports is a case in point. Former Braintree High School girls varsity basketball coach Kristen McDonnell stepped down after eight winning seasons — and two Division 1 state championships — because of what one parent described as “parent revolt.”

Of course, many parents, some coaches say, still manage to keep things in perspective. But the evolution of these important relationships continues.

“I’ve had it pretty good. I haven’t had lunacy like that,” Leicester High varsity football coach Tim Griffiths said.

“As far as parent interaction, we have our issues here and there, as every coach does,” Griffiths said. “When kids are growing up and playing sports, their parents expect that the kids get plenty of playing time. When they get older, however, it’s just not realistic. At the varsity level, the best players are going to play, and that’s just how it is.”

Griffiths, who’s been coaching at Leicester since 1994 — except for a stint at Quabbin Regional High School in the mid-2000s — said: “The parents that I’ve been around have been great with me, but I’ve also been there for a long time. It helps that they know me and know what to expect.

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