A lot for them to handle
Coaches come and go almost every year in the world of high school sports and the 2012-13 year was no different for schools in Northeast Michigan.
But how do these coaching changes come about, what pressures are put on new coaches and most importantly how do all these changes affect the athletes?
Coaches resign, step down or simply decide enough’s enough for a variety of different reasons: personal problems, health issues, conflicts with the program or even issues with their full time job.
Being a coach is a full time commitment and the pressure may become too much for a coach.
“I’ve been involved in the program (Posen basketball) for 20 years and have been active as a coach for nine at the JV and varsity levels. It’s a complete commitment and you have to have the passion for it every day. When it becomes a chore or that passion dips, it’s time to go,” former Posen boys basketball coach Steve Hentkowski said.
Hentkowski began running into problems with his full time job during summer off-season training camps as well as some minor health problems that made it difficult for him to continue coaching. The passion for coaching was still there but the time commitment had become difficult to maintain.
“The hardest part is not working with the kids any more, not coaching. Posen basketball has a great program and I’ve had some great success as a coach, but I’ve had some great players who had the commitment and the belief to succeed. You couldn’t have asked for a better place to coach basketball,” Hentkowski said.
New coaches are often faced with new pressures and responsibilities they may have never anticipated. This can even be true of former assistant coaches, such as former Alpena football coach Jason Dubey, that make the jump from assistant to head coach.
Dubey was an offensive assistant under former Alpena football coach Jack Gebauer for several years before taking over as head coach in 2009. He stepped down as coach last month due to health concerns.
“They suddenly have a lot more responsibility. You have to do things you would have never imagined, such as fundraising, scouting, paperwork. You’re the first one there, setting everything up before the game and you’re the last one to leave. It’s really time consuming and you have to have the right family, in my case wife, if you want to be a coach,” Dubey said.
Community pressure can also be a problem for many coaches. Parents, grandparents and other fans of a team want the team to succeed, which can create a new layer of stress.
“There’s a big time pressure on yourself to be successful. How the coach measures that, whether it’s wins and losses or the growth in their players as people doesn’t matter. The important thing is making sure the team is successful in a way that benefits the players,” Dubey said.
When a new coach comes in, they may bring a whole new set of expectations, rules and strategies to the game. Players that have trained under a certain system with a coach will have to adapt to the new coaches’ methods.
Naturally, this is a two way street: a coach can’t simply walk into practice and try to change the team’s methods completely. Players are suddenly faced with a new coach who may have a whole set of expectations, goals and ambitions that may or may not suit this team.
“There obviously has to be a marriage between your vision and the vision of the athletes. Sometimes you have to come in and change a whole culture which isn’t going to happen overnight. You have to come to grips with it and set goals and ambitions with your team that you can meet and work on those goals,” Alpena soccer coach Tim Storch said.
Most importantly, a coach has to build respect between himself and his players. The players are in an uncertain situation that can affect not only their current season, but perhaps their entire athletic career.
A coach may struggle against player apathy, inability or even aggression, but it falls on their shoulders to unite the team in spite of differences and any difficulties they may be having as a group.
“I heard a quote that explains it well: they have to know how much you care before they care how much you know. They have to know that I care about them as people first and athletes second and when you build a bond between a player and coach on that personal level, then they care about your knowledge and your passion to achieve and improve,” Storch said.
Eric Benac can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5690. Follow Eric on Twitter @EricBenac.