Coach’s Responsibilities Go Beyond the Playing Field

Coach’s Responsibilities Go Beyond the Playing Field

By Rick Steen, San Ramon Valley High School

The main responsibilities of a coach are to instruct the appropriate skills and strategies of a sport.
The most important lesson I can offer as a coach is the particular value system that I represent, and that which I feel is important for my athletes to practice. Included in this package is a zero-tolerance for alcohol, tobacco and drug abuse, enforceable during the scholastic baseball season.

Specific reasons for these standards are cited in this article.
Other than the legalities associated with possession and consumption, the use of alcohol, drugs or tobacco erodes the physiological benefits of sports. It acts as an adverse to the focus of individual and team success, and deters the responsibility of representing the team family, and school community, in the manner which has the purest quality and promotes the best health.

These expectations are stated in every preseason meeting involving the players, as well as the preseason meeting with the parents.
The players and parents are required to sign an agreement of acknowledgment, understanding and compliance. Included are stating the reasons for the agreement and conditions of detection for noncompliance. A school or law official must disclose a breaking of the rules. If abuse is discovered through other sources, the player is counseled. In all of these meetings regarding this subject, rarely is the content and its penalties questioned.

Unfortunately, however, even with the open communication, every year a player is suspended from the baseball program for breaking the agreement. The worst case occurred in 1988 when 19 players were suspended after a drinking episode while participating in a tournament.

A player testing the rules is not so surprising, but the aftermath is amazing.
The player never questions the penalty for his actions, but it is very common that the parent does. “You are being unfair–he has done so much for you coach,” they will say. Or, “He wasn’t the only one drinking.” Or, “You are ruining his scholarship opportunity.” Those are some of the more common cries. One parent hired the services of a lawyer to try to reinstate his son.

Excuses are not what ballplayers need.
They are given lessons and challenges in responsibility through athletic programs, and they deserve positive role modeling and the belief in consequences and intrinsic rewards. The players represent the San Ramon Valley baseball program directly for 17 weeks. Teaching them a lesson for which failure to comply could result in the loss of a player for the season.

Parents and coaches, show athletes moderation and legal adherence in personal practices.
Young people do not need a 44-year-old buddy; rather, they need a mature, adult role figure.

It is astonishing how common parent-sponsored “keg parties” occur, or how common it is for parents to blatantly condone drinking in their homes. Parents, these same players represent you and your family every day of the year for both of your lives. Their mistakes regarding alcohol, drug, or tobacco use could cost you a family member, a substantial financial loss due to litigation and a lifetime nightmare. Coaches have a substitute to play for them–parents have no substitute.

Coaches, please help by trying to be the figure with whom the player can emulate and follow, not the shadow with whom he or she can hang out or of whom they can take advantage.


 Rick Steen has won over 450 games in his 30 years as Head Varsity Baseball Coach at San Ramon Valley High School in Danville, California. He is also a scout for the Florida Marlins. Among Steen’s prime accomplishments are his selection as North Coast Section Honor Coach in 1987, induction into the Tri-Valley Hall of Fame, and being named the national Division I High School Coach of the Year in 2002. Steen also spent the summer of 1995 coaching in England for Major League Baseball International and in 1998 he was selected to coach Team Ireland.


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