The stories are endless, and yet they’re still complete outliers.
One East Valley softball coach recalled a game last spring that was decided on a controversial call. Two parents, each with a kid on the competing teams got into an argument and then shoved each other until their daughters intervened.
Another East Valley softball team had just won arguably its biggest game in the school’s long softball history during the state tournament. Twenty minutes after the game ended, the coach got an email from a parent complaining about their kid’s playing time. The parent and coach haven’t spoken since.
Another was threatened by the promise of bringing a gun (which didn’t happen) the next time there needs to be a conversation about playing time.
A soccer coach had a parent come to his work (a store) to chew him out, and conveniently parked away from the store for an easy “getaway.”
The number of stories spanning every sport could fill up the Internet, because, as Tempe boys basketball coach Tom Saltzstein noted: “Parents want the best for their child, whereas coaches want the best for their team.”
Which brings this back to Jan. 10, when a collision between Dobson and Mesquite girls basketball players led to an enraged Mesquite parent interrupting the game by getting in the face of, and shoving, Mustangs coach Tyler Dumas. A scrum of bodies ensued, police were summoned, and Mesquite’s (terrific) win over Dobson was finished with players, coaches and cheerleaders left in attendance.
It was “certainly the worst” run-in Dumas has experienced in nearly 20 years of coaching. Most other coaches — even those few as long (or longer) in the coaching tooth as Dumas — haven’t experienced an incident quite as jarring as this physical confrontation.
Two immensely-respected coaching peers of Dumas said recently they would strongly consider leaving coaching for good if such an incident happened to them.
It’s the world of coaching and parenting dynamics, one that began years (decades?) ago, but reiterated itself in the past week, not only at Dobson, but at a pair of boys soccer games in the East Valley over the same weekend (that we know of).
It’s almost always about playing time, about delusions of his/her kid’s abilities, or a coach with an agenda for/against, and if they played more college scouts would notice (not completely unfounded based on what tuition and housing costs these days). The amount of time and money so many parents spend on their child and his/her athletic endeavors, training and equipment can be mind-boggling, and only fuels the frustration when things don’t go as planned.
So where is this going? Down a road where the recent clashes between parents and coaches remain — at least to this extent — a preciously rare exception (at least reported). Or will things stay the same?
Obviously, this fractured dichotomy will never completely disappear because neither coaches nor parents nor any system is anything resembling perfect.
There are no answers, which is the most troubling answer. But we are left with concepts such as this, from Paradise Valley softball coach David Moore, which should catch on everywhere:
“One thing that I have done to alleviate any problems is to create an outfield seating area down the lines of our field,” he said. “If a fan, any fan, does something like argue with an umpire, say something to an opposing player, I simply walk out and point to the area. Most of our fans know what they are supposed to do. For those that don’t, our parents tell them, ‘You need to go sit out there.’”
• Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune assistant managing editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or (480) 898-6576.