Coaches have the same goal
By Larry Pritchett
Past PCHS activities director
In the past couple of weeks, a number of professional, college and, I am sure, a number of high school coaches lost their jobs. The football season ended and football coaches at all three of those levels probably heard those dreaded words, “Our program needs to head in a different direction.”
If a person has chosen coaching as a profession, that person knows that when you hear that expression it means that it really doesn’t matter what direction the program takes in the following year, it just means you won’t be in charge of it anymore.
There were five or six head coaches in the NFL that parted ways with their teams and I have no idea how many college or high school coaches headed off in a different direction.
In college and in the pros, coaches get to participate and most of the time get a nice parting gift in large lumps of money that are buyouts if they had time left on their contracts. Even if they do leave with some nice “parting gifts for participating” there is still a toll taken.
Usually when a head coach in the NFL and college level leaves that means seven, eight or more assistant coaches usually take that walk with him but it still affects a lot of people’s lives.
In high school it is much different. Coaching duties are assigned and people can be removed from them for little or no reason. There are no parting gifts for playing the game.
There are seldom any buyouts at the high school level, so you either stay there and take a pay cut or you move to another school, and depending upon how long you have been in the business, at least in Nebraska, probably will still take a pay cut and pay for your moving expenses. This will happen again as soon as basketball season ends and it will go on and on as long as there are organized sports.
It is my strong belief that no coach wants to lose. During the years that I coached I know that my goal was to put the players on the floor who I had watched in every practice all year long and had evaluated them over and over each day and decided that certain combinations would give us the best chance at being successful. I know that not everyone would agree that was a strength of mine from time to time but over the years, I think maybe it was.
I know that people sometimes think coaches play favorites. I did. My favorites were the ones that played hard, played smart and played together and most of the time scored more points than the other team.
My favorites also included those guys who worked hard in the summer and a lot of times that was on their own, making themselves better individual players so they could blend that into a team concept.
My favorite guys were ones who could take criticism and improve, not pout. They could take that criticism if I yelled it at them or spoke to them in private.
My favorite players were ones that were better at the end of the year than they were at the beginning of the year and they made the players around them better at the same time, yes, I played favorites.
Why do people coach if there are so many things that don’t seem to make the profession one that has many positives connected with it? I always thought that the positives in the profession, as limited as they might seem to some, still outweighed the problems.
Coaches have the opportunity to touch many young people’s lives. I have said many times that my high school coaches were the reason that I wanted to coach. I wanted to be just like them.
I had great parents but I also had coaches who backed up the things that my parents had taught me. My coaches talked about hard work, commitment, attention to detail, teamwork, working for a purpose. Many of those things my parents had already introduced to me.
When my father passed away when I was in college, the track coach at Fort Hays helped me get through a difficult time in my life. I didn’t compete in track, but I hung around coaches during the different seasons watching how they did things and Coach Francis knew who I was and took time to counsel me when I was thinking about dropping out and going back to the farm. That helped me in many ways when I started my coaching career.
There are times in coaching when you wonder why you do it. No high school coach does it for the money. You know when you coach there will be hills to climb. You work with 15 to18 year old kids and their parents.
Coaches work with people’s most prized possessions, their children. Sometimes it is good that children have other people who discipline them because I am convinced that it is lacking in some homes. But that will always be a difficult situation.
I loved coaching because the kids were always the same age and therefore I didn’t feel the aging process like I do now. I think I was lucky because I could relate somewhat to the guys who played for me.
I know there are some who still think I am somewhere South of Attila the Hun and I wish I could have touched them in a more positive way. But I have to say, I haven’t lost a lot of sleep over thinking about it.
You do your best, yet there are a lot of different personalities that you deal with over a 30-40 year career. You win some, you lose some. I feel confident that I didn’t lose too many.
If I had it all to do over again, I would do it pretty much the same way. It is still a great profession and hopefully will continue in the same direction.
If you feel so inclined, say thanks to the different coaches who work with your kids or had input in your life. I know they will appreciate it.