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COLUMNIST: Parents need to know their place

It seems every year, during each sports season, an occasion arises where I hear a coach talking about parents hounding them. It never fails.

It's not always the same coaches. It's not always the same sports.

I've been a varsity athlete. I've been a coach from every level from fifth grade through high school varsity and college junior varsity. And now I'm in a job where I deal closely with coaches and athletes on a regular basis.

I feel I'm in a pretty good position to have a good handle on this subject.

Parents need to know their place in varsity athletics. That is to sit back and cheer on their team. Period. That's it. Maybe volunteer for a fundraiser or something.

Parent's should not be questioning how a coach runs practice. Parent's should not be questioning a game plan. Parent's should not be questioning playing time.

There's a perfectly good person in place to do those things. The Activities Director. The A.D. will know if a coach isn't doing their job.

Parents who think they know more than the coaches, usually don't.

The fact is, and many parent's may not want to admit this, but between school, practice, game time and travel time on the bus for road games, coaches probably spend more time with the kids, and know more about them than the parents do.

It's not a knock on parents. It's our lifestyle. Work, school, practice, social activities, church activities. The day gets away from you.

But, back to my point, coaches know these kids. They know their strengths and weaknesses. They know their tendencies and their limits. They know who's a team player, and who's in it for themselves. They know who will work hard and go the extra mile, and who's just there for the ride. And they also probably know better than most parents how to keep the kids in shape, and to eat well and live a healthy lifestyle.

More importantly, at the varsity level at least, the coaches know who gives them the best chance at winning. Let's be realistic. Varsity sports is about winning and success. Varsity coaches always will, and always should, put out the best team possible.

Equal participation is great and vastly important at the elementary, junior high and even the freshman levels. Every "Forest Gump" should play, or have as much of a chance to compete as every "LeBron James". Every kid should also have a chance at trying other sports at those ages to find their calling.

But at the varsity level, the best will be playing. If a junior is better than a senior, he should play more. If a sophomore is better than a junior or senior, they should play more. And parent's shouldn't question that.

If a parent thinks a coach is physically or emotionally abusive to an individual, that's another story.

But something parent's need to remember...not all yelling in a practice or game setting, is abusive. And sometimes coaches "fib" to a kid to motivate them. "Sure, little Johnny can be a starter next year if he keeps working hard."

Give the coaches a break. Stay in the stands and cheer for your kids. But don't, for a second, think you know more about running a team or program than any of them do.