High school sports are communist

This is more a random thought than a specific complaint, and it doesn’t apply solely to softball. It applied to all high school sports.

I had never really thought about it before but the thought occurred to me this morning that high school sports are communist, while club/travel sports are capitalist. Why do I think that?

Consider this: high school sports are controlled 100% by the “state,” i.e. the coach. There is no voting, there is no discussion. The coach makes a decision, and your choices are live with it or quit. It’s a total dictatorship. If you try to rise up and complain, the odds are that the “conflict resolution” process used within the school will ultimately exile your kid to the sports equivalent of Siberia — the bench, with no possibility of parole. If the kid even thinks about speaking up, same fate. The coach is free to do whatever he/she wants, short of outright breaking the law, with little chance for censure much less dismissal. In many places, unless you’re the football or basketball coach the team can suck for years, underperforming time after time, and your job is safe. It’s good to be the Premier.

Behavior on club and travel sports, on the other hand, are dictated by market pressures. If you don’t like a club sport’s coach or policies, you leave and go somewhere else. If enough people don’t like him/her/them, the club folds up and goes away. Parents can band together and get a coach removed much more easily. Clubs that do well get rewarded, clubs that don’t lose players and wind up taking lesser kids, thus beginning the death spiral. Club and team sports don’t have a built-in constituency either. They have to advertise, recruit, or draw players in some other manner. No-nothing coaches tend not to last very long.

Interestingly, the college model is much closer to club/travel ball than to high schools. While there are scholarships and such at stake, if you don’t like your situation at one place you can always try your luck elsewhere. I’m not saying it’s easy, but you are not stuck.

I’d be interested to hear other thoughts on this comparison. Just remember that this is being set forth in a lighthearted way, so keep it clean and friendly!

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About Ken Krause

Ken Krause has been coaching girls fastpitch softball for nearly 20 years. Some may know him as a contributing columnist to Softball Magazine, where he writes Krause's Korner -- a regular column sponsored by Louisville Slugger. Ken is also the Administrator of the Discuss Fastpitch Forum, the most popular fastpitch discussion forum on the Internet. He is currently a Three Star Master Coach with the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA), and is certified by both the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) and American Sports Education Program (ASEP). Ken is a private instructor specializing in pitchers, hitters, and catchers. He teaches at North Shore Baseball Academy in Libertyville, IL and Pro-Player Consultants in McHenry, IL.

Posted on May 11, 2007, in General Thoughts. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I tend to agree with you. In fact my daughter and I can even relate. She is now a freshman at her High School, and they have a new Coach this year, but not because the old Coach was fired (he should have been though). The old Coach retired from teaching and subsequently coaching after, I believe, 9 seasons. The team has never been able to compete in our region, and in most seasons, not in our district either. To my knowledge no incentive negative or positive was ever given to him. I only know of one player that has ever moved on to play at the next level, and even worse, few alumni have anything positive to say about the experience “period”.As far as Football and Basketball and even Baseball, at least some level of success is demanded. There are two reasons I can think of for this problem. Both have to do with money. High School Coaches, at least where we are from, are usually teachers. I believe the state says either the coach or at least one member of his staff must be on the school payroll. That right away makes Coaching a part time job. The other reason is salary. Coaches, around here only, make around $3,000 a year for there troubles. So, unless they are doing it for the love of the game . . . . you get what you pay for!

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  2. Coaches around here make about the same. Some take it seriously, but many are just three-month coaches. When this season is over they move on to something else, or do nothing. In Illinois preference is given to teachers regardless of qualifications. Just as being part of the Party meant your choice of the better jobs back in the USSR.

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  3. Why do you think that Teachers are given preference? Why wouldn’t the School want to hire the best coach for the job? I mean, I don’t understand why you wouldn’t want to look at a potential coaches qualifications when considering whether or not to hire them. After all they are representing your school and have influence over “our” kids. Why do you think that athletics are considered an extra curricular activity for which no credits are given, but Band is given full credit? You would think, if your a member of a School athletic team, you should at least be given a PE credit. I personally don’t think there is enough focus put on Physical Education in our Schools. But I also realize that not everyone is interested in athletics. But not everybody is interested in Band either. Shouldn’t they at least be given equal credit? Don’t take this the wrong way, I did both when I went to High School. So I realize the value of both. But I’ve got to say, I believe the lessons I learned playing Team Sports have benefited me more than being a member of the Band. It just seems to me that there is a little discrimination here, especially where girls sports are concerned.

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  4. My belief is that the high school associations who run athletics at the state level view sports as an extra curricular activity, and the coach is a sponsor by that definition. Right or wrong they likely believe that teachers have more training in dealing with young people and thus should be better at promoting a positive experience among the participants. I’ve seen it work out that way, and I’ve seen it not. Sometimes, some sports are lucky to get anyone to come and run them, knowledge or not, just so they can have a team. In theory having a teacher running a sports team should bring a high level of professionalism to the sports experience. Then again, in theory communism should work too. 🙂 Not sure where I stand on band v. sports for credit. You make some interesting points. I did both as well, but band was a class and athletics were after class. In my day playing a sport exempted you from gym class. I don’t think they do that a lot anymore. If anything, the sports teams are trying to institute sport-specific gym classes so they can handle a lot of the conditioning work there, and focus more on skills during practice. One thing I will say is that band is generally a full-year commitment, whereas sports have seasons. Maybe that’s the difference. Or maybe the band directors just have a better lobby.

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