Ask Poops, Please

Putting my two cents in.

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Location: Belmont, New Hampshire, United States

Born and bred in a small New England town, I am convinced that I know something about everything, and that my opinion matters. If only to me. Well, you'll see what I mean. And I love to knit, so you'll see what kind of things I'm doing when I should be vacuuming the living room.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Pussy-fying of Sports

So, there's a coach at my alma mater, BHS, that has come under fire recently for his coaching techniques. I'm here to tell you that no matter what you've heard on the street, it's all bunk.

Jeri Blair has been coaching girls' basketball and cross-country for. ev. er. He was coaching when I graduated high school 22 years ago. He was coaching when I entered high school 26 years ago. He's brought home state championships. He's coached thousand-point scorers. He's coached All-State athletes. And in all that time, I've never heard a word from a player, parent, or another coach that he's done anything but a good job. Well, I'm sure there were grumblings from time to time because you can't please everyone all the time, but suffice it to say that in the Grand Pantheon of Great High School Coaches, Coach Blair shines in the firmament of all-stars.

The scuttlebutt 'round town (received from another parent with a daughter on his current team) is that one of the parents of one of his basketball players is upset because she doesn't get much playing time. According to the other parent, this is because said bench-warming daughter, in a word, sucks. Basketball isn't her sport, apparently, but because her sister was one of the aforementioned thousand-point scorers, Dear Old Dad feels that younger sister should have the opportunity to score as many points as she can as well. Dear Old Dad is on the school board. You can see where this is going.

Coach Blair gives court time to the players who work hard, follow directions, play together as a team, and get results. By the time you're playing high school sports, you are playing to win, or should be. This isn't grade school where kids are learning the basics and playing just for the fun and the experience. In the world of HS sports, the Varsity team is the Big Leagues. In my day, if you made Varsity, it was the equivalent of a baseball player being moved up from the minors to the major league, it was "going to the show". You felt honored just to be a part of the Varsity team. I managed two varsity teams and wore my letters with pride. I kept the books, calculated the stats, and shagged more balls than a Times Square hooker during Fleet Week. I never stepped a foot on the court, never saw a moment of playing time (because I sucked), but I still found a way to be part of the team. I worked hard at my job and earned my place on the team and was damned proud of it. I still am.

At some point between 1987 and 2009, something changed. Apparently making a team became a right, not a privilege, nor an honor to be earned. Every kid should have the right to play, some parents said, and all kids should get equal playing time because it is bad for their self-esteem to sit the bench all season. Their kids, they said, feel like they're not as good as the "star" players who start every game, score most of the points, and get to be the captain when they're seniors. You know, the coach plays favorites.

If your kid's self-esteem can't take warming the bench, perhaps the band would be a better place. (Though I'm here to tell you that if you suck at playing your particular instrument, Mr. Craigie is going to be a douchebag about it because you're making the whole band suck. I'm just saying.)

In today's paper, there's an article about how his coaching style is under attack. For the first time in a bazillion years, someone is coming forward to say how awful a coach he was. The best part is that "Jane" is a professional educator who played for Coach in the '90's and expressed her views in an anonymous letter to the free paper, knowing that anonymous letters won't get printed due to editorial policy. After numerous emails and phone calls she agreed to make some statements for an article, but using an assumed name.

She said he was mean and yelled at the girls. He played favorites. He was a tyrant.

I wonder why in 22 years I've never heard of such a thing. I never saw it when I was a student and my friends played for teams under Coach Blair. I didn't hear it from the girls who played volleyball for Coach Garneau, and he was a bigger ball-breaker (if we'd had balls, that is) than Coach Blair could have dreamed of being. Hell, I managed a couple of boys' teams and I saw Coach Rainville throw a chair at a player who was being lazy. Good times, good times.

Yes, it's as I thought. Jane is a pussy. I bet she didn't get on with Coach Blair because he has no time for pussies. He coaches girls to have character, strength, fortitude, and resilience. He teaches good sportsmanship and fair play. Jane doesn't have balls enough to sign a letter to the editor of the local free paper. What does that tell you about her character, her sense of fair play?

Coach Blair has said that this will be his last year coaching at BHS. Which is a loss for the school and the current crop of players who will miss him a lot. You can bet if I write a letter to the free paper in support of Coach Blair, I'll sign the fucking thing. I'll let you read it first.

I don't know as it will be necessary. I never played for him in high school, nor did I manage any of his teams. But lots of my friends did. And I saw their practices and their games and he always did what he was supposed to do as a coach. He encouraged them in any way he had to to get the best from them. He made them run faster, jump higher, and shoot straighter. He laughed with the girls in the sheer fun of the sport, and he cried with them when they lost a hard-played game. He yelled at them for not working hard enough, and praised them when they gave it their all, even if they fell short of their goals.

In short, he understands that what marks an athlete is not necessarily her skills, but her constant striving to be better than she is. And as a coach, that's the attitude he nourished. He knows that true self-esteem comes when an athlete knows she's done her very best to make the whole team better.

I know I'm not alone in thinking this. I'm hoping to hear from them in the paper in the next few weeks. Jane the Coward of the unsigned letter can go back to her "professional educator" life and feel confident that the new crop of coaches coming up will make sure every kid is allowed to progress at her own pace and gets to play every game. Because God forbid anyone have to work harder than she thought possible and surpass her own expectations of herself. God forbid a student sit the bench most of the season but still get to be a part of a winning season or a state title.

I wish Coach Blair a happy retirement, and I hope that he realizes the example of service he has set. I'm sorry that after so many years and so much time dedicated to the kids of our district that he doesn't get more of the benefit of the doubt from the school board. He and coaches like him have set the bar of excellence pretty high, and I hope that his successors in the years to come can live up to that in today's climate of entitlement.

Though quite frankly, I doubt it.

2 Comments:

Blogger Cindy in Happy Valley said...

I've been saying for some time that the feminist movement has not been strengthening our daughters, but turning them into wimps (read: complainers). Pussies are as good a description as any.

11:12 AM  
Blogger Penny Karma said...

Few topics get me as fired up as the Pussyfying of sports. I fucking HATE it.

If your kid can't take the pressure, get her whiney ass off the field. We're not here to hug and sing Kum Ba Muthahfuggin Ya.

Find a different fucking hobby. Like knitting, perhaps.

No, wait... we're badasses!!!

9:38 AM  

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