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Schools should resist parental coaching surveys

Barnesville, Minn., school officials and board members should resist the idea of parent surveys that would be part of sports coaches' evaluations. A group of residents apparently wants to go after coaches who might use what the parents claim is deprecating language during team practices.

Ramped-up parental involvement in coach evaluations would make a hard and often thankless job even harder. No coach is perfect (unless he/she is winning, of course), but parents tend to be influenced by factors other than a coach's job performance. More often than not, overly involved parents of young athletes or would-be athletes blame the coach for junior's lack of athletic prowess. Second-guessing a coach's decision about, say playing time for a kid who just can't cut it, can evolve into unfair criticism and out-and-out harassment of a coach. Examples abound.

Regarding the style of language a coach brings to practice: Let's get serious. Nothing a coach says in the context of motivating young athletes is something they haven't heard before in the hallways, on the streets and even at home. Furthermore, strong language from coaches is not new in 2009. Pick a generation and rest assured memories of salty-tongued coaches are universal.

The risk in the Barnesville parents' scheme is at least threefold. First, it could reduce the pool of potential coaches because coaches have to deal with enough unwarranted interference and heckling from parents already. Coaching in small schools could go the way of sports officials: not enough of them.

Second, singling out coaches for special parent evaluations could cause complicated fallout because other teachers would not be subject to the same kind of scrutiny. What's next? A gaggle of parents hovering over the science teacher in the lab?

Third, is there anything more embarrassing for a young athlete than mommy and daddy making fools of themselves regarding a coach's conduct? How will that go down at the next practice? On the team bus? At the next game?

School officials are right to reject the idea that a coach's livelihood should depend on evaluations from parents who are not present at most practices. An attempt by parents to micromanage likely hides personal agendas, such as bumping a coach who doesn't give their kids enough playing time.

Barnesville and other school districts have in place systems to handle complaints about coaches. Parents should use the system so that the validity of their objections can be fully evaluated. -- The Forum