By Ken Reed
I devoted a chapter in my book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan, to our country’s need to replace abusive, militaristic-style coaches with more humanistic coaches. I’ve also written columns about the need to rid sports of coaching bullies — e.g., Bobby Knight types — especially at the youth and high school levels.
However, I also believe there’s a troubling trend in high school athletics today of parents illegitimately forcing coaches out of jobs (often due to playing time issues involving their kids). Athletic directors and principals are too often caving into parental pressure and firing coaches without strong evidence of any wrongdoing.
Recently, a long-time Honeoye Central High School coach in New York won a defamation lawsuit against over-the-top parents who pushed him out of his coaching job. Storm was awarded $50,000. The parents targeted in the suit had written a letter to the school superintendent claiming the coach, Mark Storm, was abusive and had a drinking problem.
The school district conducted an investigation and cleared Storm of wrongdoing. Moreover, the superintendent recommended to the school board that Storm be retained as a coach. Nevertheless,the board voted 5-2 to no longer keep Storm as boys basketball coach.
Of the nearly 20 emails and letters obtained by the newspaper the Democrat and Chronicle regarding the Storm case, the vast majority were supportive of Storm.
Former Honeoye Central basketball coach and athletic director Bil Saxby wrote a letter of support for Storm. He also warned Superintendent David C. Bills about letting parents run the show.
“Once you have gone down that road, you have publicly defined your philosophy,” he wrote. “Be sure that you are the one running the school, not a vigilante group.”
Storm calls these type of sports parents lawnmower parents.
“They just mow everything down that’s in their kid’s way,” he says.
It’s impossible to know exactly what the situation was in the Honeoye Central case. However, while it’s clear there’s no room in high school sports for abusive coaches, it’s also clear that parents upset with playing time shouldn’t be empowered to make coaching personnel decisions.
Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world, with over 150 camps in 30+ U.S. states and Canada. We discuss problems in youth sports today, including single sport specialization, the growing gap between the “haves” and “have-nots,” the high drop-out rate in competitive sports, and the growing mental health challenges young athletes are dealing with today.
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Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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