This is Why I Don’t Play

January 28, 2019

Overall, only 7 percent of high school athletes play at the collegiate level and of that seven, only 2 percent play at the NCAA Division I level. From there, only 2 percent of NCAA athletes go on to play professionally. A significant majority of these student-athletes will leave with a high school diploma and go out into the real world, without continuing to competitively pursue a certain sport. With this in mind, a growing number of high school students have decided to stop pursuing their passions, but not for the reasons people may think. The issue is that student-athletes are having this decision to quit inflicted upon them.

 Note: The quotes are from current or previous students at West Ranch. Their identity and sport have been kept anonymous in respect of their opinion.

“I get that it’s a very competitive nature, and I’m not complaining about that. But in the end, these sports programs are for the students. It’s for them to pursue a passion. But we can’t do those things if we have coaches constantly cussing us out and emotionally abusing us to a certain level. Sure, it could be because they care about us and they want us to be the best version of ourselves, but there is a line. I quit because of the aggression of my coaches.”

“The coach himself wasn’t the most motivating person. There was a time when I felt that his jokes went way too far and were really insulting. I don’t think he knew the difference between constructive criticism and remarks that would break my character. One time, one of the coaches embarrassed me, and I had to laugh to keep myself from crying in front of team. A mixture of all the pressure I was feeling in and out of the team and the emotional abuse was way too intense for me to keep up. It wasn’t worth it. It wouldn’t have been healthy for me to continue.”

“I wasn’t given opportunities. I know I wasn’t the best on the team, so that encouraged me to work harder. I practiced on my own time, but when it came to practices, I was never given a chance. The coach always separated the better kids from the not-as-good kids. You can’t improve if you are constantly playing with bad people. You need to practice with people who are better than you so that you can learn and push yourself to be better. There was so much favoritism. Of course, if you don’t get the chance in practice, you won’t get it in game. And when I did get the opportunity in practice, they didn’t seem to care, and obviously, they didn’t because I still sat on the bench. So what’s the point? That’s why I quit.”

Though not true for all sports, athletes have decided to drop out of high school sports for reasons of mistreatment by coaches. Students respect criticism and very well understand the competitive nature of high school athletes. But at the same time, positivity is just as important in improving player confidence and skill as criticism is. With the amount of time each athlete devotes to high school sports on a weekly basis, students ask for equality in opportunity in both practices and games. Yet with all these requests for the coaches, we decided it necessary to hear the coaches perspective and what they expect from their athletes.

Note: The quotes are from current or previous coaches at West Ranch. Their identity and sport have been kept anonymous in respect of their opinion.

“We want to see players give us effort and show us that they want to be there. It’s hard as a coach showing up and trying to do our job when we are not getting results back. It’s a total compromise. We will help the athletes, but they’ve got to help us. Coaches are on all their players, and they take it as they are being too hard on them, but we do it because we care and we want them to succeed. There could be different reasons why students feel they can’t communicate with their coaches. Maybe the coach seems very hard and wouldn’t understand, but as a person, the athletes need to stand up for themselves. I’m not saying to do it in a rude way, but the players need to pull a coach aside and tell them how their feeling even if the player is scared.”

“I have mixed feelings about this topic. Growing up as an athlete, most of my coaches were aggressive, but it didn’t really bother my teammates. If anything, it pushed us more. I can understand why an athlete might take offense to that type of behavior from a coach, and everyone is different and entitled to make the best decision for themselves. I personally started my coaching career 10 years ago, and I was very aggressive. I have learned, over time, that this generation of athletes have different needs, so I try my best to watch the way I speak to them. But again everyone is different, and if a coach thinks that’s the best way to coach then that’s their decision as well.”

In consideration of the students’ and coaches’ quotes, many can agree on the aggressive and competitive nature of some coaches or inequity in opportunity, but it is important to note that we, as students, need to demand change.

  To a certain extent, quitting is a sign of discontent and can be a start in enticing change, but it is only half the battle. Quite too often there is a miscommunication or even lack of communication between the expectations of both the coaches and their athletes and this miscommunication leads to tension.

  This misperception may happen when students join a sport to continue their love of the game at a higher level, while athletes feel that some coaches are most concentrated on winning all all costs, even at the expense of the players love for the game. Such strong passion by the coaches may lead to rude comments, and students feel as if they are beaten down by the comments and negativity and even struggle to get up. As a result, students refuse to communicate with their coaches out of fear for challenging their authority or for fear of being removed from the team or punished for their opinions.

  But the debate is two-sided. After hearing some of the coaches comments, they have provided some validation for student-athletes to stand up for themselves when faced with obstacles as acquiring the confidence to speak up is part of maturing as a person. But at the same time, coaches want players to recognize that criticism is done for constructive purposes, and it is not intended to be demeaning or harsh. It is done for the purpose of improvement, both on and off the court or field. Their intent is to prepare us, students, for the harsh realities of life and the workplace. Accepting negativity and turning it into something positive is a skill needed by every person in society, and this skill is frequently practiced in high school sports.

  High school sports are so much more than just a place to play basketball, soccer,  football, or any other sport. It is a unique learning experience unlike the ones seen in the classroom, an emotional experience that prepares you for the adversities of life. And recently, its true goal has been blurred with instances of aggression on the coaches side and retaliation on the student’s side. But now it’s time to make a change on both sides of the spectrum and establish a compromise between the coaches and their athletes to get back on track again.

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