As we welcome new coaches, it’s time for a new attitude
For the first time since the fall of 1980, John Ramunno will not be on the sidelines during an Eagle Valley football game.
Yeah, that news come out in March, but it’s still kind of abstract until Tom LaFramboise is the on the sideline when the Devils head to Vista Peak during the first week of September.
Battle Mountain football has a new coach, too — we welcome Cliff Lohrey — but that seems to be a more regular occurrence. (I’m starting my 19th year on the beat and he’s my ninth head coach for the Huskies on the gridiron.)
Of course, Ramunno retired, and it is richly deserved. (I’m looking forward to my first game at — ahem — John Ramunno Field.) It’s also clear that no one is Huskies Nation wanted to see Lohrey’s predecessor, Kevin Meyer, leave. That was coach Meyer’s call.
With a new year and a lot of new coaches, maybe it’s time to talk a bit about the role of coaches and high school sports and their place in the educational process.
Meet the new dean
With Ramunno’s retirement, the new dean of local coaches — in terms of continuous service — is now Battle Mountain soccer’s David Cope, who, between fall and spring seasons, starts his 36th campaign when the gents report a week from Monday. (We take this opportunity to rib him about being old since both of his kids are in high school this year. Egad.)
His record is sterling. In both boys and girls soccer, he has built a model program, which is the aspiration of every other team at every school in this county. The guys have made the postseason 17 years in a row, won eight Slope titles and took state in 2012. The ladies have won five league titles, including the last three, and have made the playoffs in all but one year since 2003.
And, despite all of this, I get emails — naturally, anonymous — hearing from parents that Cope isn’t playing the right player and isn’t employing the right strategy.
The aforementioned accomplishments suggest otherwise, which makes an observer just brush off those comments with regard to Cope and his program.
But this isn’t a unique situation.
You hear coaching complaints at every school in just about every sport.
It’s about the athletes, people
Yes, some coaches are better than others, and every coach makes mistakes as they go through a career (and the ones who do learn from said errors are usually the good ones).
But what is the control and variable here, particularly through the years?
At the Vail Mountain School, Bob Bandoni has coached a ton of soccer teams over the years. His IQ didn’t go up magically last spring in comparison to years when his teams didn’t make the state tournament. Bandoni had talent on his roster, and, to his credit, molded it into an exceptional team that did win state.
Some years, a coach simply doesn’t have the talent. Back to Ramunno, between the 2011 (1-8) and 2012 (8-4 and in the state quarterfinals) seasons, he didn’t do anything hugely different.
A great coach — and Bandoni, Cope and Ramunno fall in this category — goes only as far as his players.
So why, in high school sports, here and throughout the country, do the parents scapegoat the coach? Let’s face it; some of the new coaches for the upcoming school year are here because their predecessors were run out of town. (And again, we speak not of Ramunno or Meyer, who both made their own calls.)
Could we entertain the possibility that some teams on the local sporting scene may not succeed, merely because the kids on those teams just aren’t good enough? And what are we saying when parents go after the coach and force a change?
“Jimmy, you didn’t lose because you couldn’t hit the ocean from a beach chair. It was coach Smith’s fault.”
How is that helping a young adult get ready for the real world? Remember, folks, the competitive arena is simply an extension of the classroom, another place where students learn about individual responsibility, time management and discipline.
What happens when Jimmy doesn’t get the grade he wants on his first college paper? Will his folks try to get the professor fired?
We as a community are not sending the right message here when we blame the coach (or the referee) for an athlete’s failure. The lesson from such failures should be, “Jimmy, work harder.”
Such a transformation during the upcoming year would be bigger than any state title.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.