May 10, 2014

Morals, Ethics, and Standards of Coaching

Back when my dad was in recovery, and I lived at home for awhile to help care for him, I took on the task of organizing my parents' basement to make room for his "rehab station." While I was cleaning, I found a box of my old report cards. My mom had saved ALL my report cards K-12. (Can't you tell I'm an only child?) I glanced through them, mostly looking for teachers' comments. They were all positive except for one, surprisingly written in kindergarten. "Rebecca is a bit of a doormat. She lets other kids take her toys and is too shy to speak up when she wants or needs something."  Okay, almost 30 years later and with a few education degrees, I would NEVER write something like that on a report card, true or not. There are much more tactful ways of addressing that. Aside from that, it really made me think. In recent years, I have pretty much blamed my confidence issues on my cheating ex husband and birth father that abandoned us. But maybe not? Maybe it was something I was born with? A DOORMAT? That's pretty strong. 

The problem brewing inside me was more than just emotions. Yes, Coach C was infuriating b/c he doesn't respect me and doesn't treat me well. It's bigger than that, though. He is leading our team in a way that's dishonorable. The profanity alone is highly offensive to me, and I'm sure to others. I understand that at some schools this is norm for football teams, whatever, but NOT track, and not cussing AT the athletes. Aside from that, I don't think it's appropriate at all in front of kids.  His little temper tantrums do not model good sportsmanship, and the way he speaks to me in front of the athletes is sending a very wrong message. Basically, I felt he was being a terrible role model. Over the course of the season, it's something I felt more and more convicted about. My Christian beliefs were feeling first-challenged; then I began feeling like I was failing the athletes in my duties of being a responsible coach.  We are expected to LEAD and MODEL team spirit, camaraderie, joy for the sport, RESPECT, self-discipline. I felt convicted because by not speaking up, I was allowing his attitude and behavior to taint our team. In a bigger element, I felt like I was letting down our community. In small, country towns like ours, athletics are one of the few things our kids have. How would I feel if my daughter was on the team? What kind of examples do I want for Savannah? Fast forward 13 years and she might very well be on my track/XC team. It really puts things into perspective. I would want her coach to take a stand. 

A week ago, I had decided to throw in the towel and just resign. Then I had a revelation. And I can't take credit for my revelations because my thinking really started with my sweet hubby, who though a man of not many words, always has the best things to say. He told me that as long as he's known me, I've always been passionate about my coaching, cross country and track alike. He said that it wasn't until I started working w/ Coach C that he saw something change in me, and he felt like Coach C was sucking my joy away from it. He said he felt like Coach C was trying to push me out, drive me to quit. Like he knew I wouldn't be able to make a change or stand. Hmmmm… more thought provoking stuff. This led to more thought and prayer. See, I'd gone to the AD a few times before. He always listened to me respectfully, promised to speak to him and make sure changes happened, but then they never did. In fact, the longer the season went, the worse things got. It appeared that my complaints were not being taken seriously, or possibly the AD thought they were being taken care of, but didn't have time to follow through. *Sidenote: I really like the AD. He's a good guy and has always treated me with respect. He's always supported my team, including finding the money to pay for our entire trip to the State Meet the past two years when we didn't have enough in our account. 

Last week, I drafted a very detailed email to the AD and the principal. In summary, I listed all the things that had happened this season, my goals for our team, and why I felt convicted about the things that were happening. My last sentence was the kicker. I needed them to make a choice. I wanted to continue coaching as a head track coach, but would not do so if Coach C was a part of the program. It was literally only minutes before I got an email back from the AD (with the reply CCed to the principal) that he wanted to meet with me Wed. after school. He wanted to discuss everything in person. Sounded promising enough.

I was a nervous wreck Wednesday. I have a bad habit on getting on tangents or letting my emotions take hold in conflict situations; so I made myself a bulleted notecard with points that I wanted to make. I hoped this would keep me on track without letting my emotions take hold. And then I did it. The AD, principal, and I sat in his office, and they asked me to explain what problems I had had this season and last. I took about 15 minutes to explain simply everything, without going into too much detail. They asked about a few things in more detail, which I answered honestly and tried to be as emotionless as possible. I rarely say this about myself, but I ROCKED! The listened closely. The principal took notes, and then they nodded to each other. At the time, I was too shocked to be happy, but the next words the AD said to me I will never forget, "Dr. R (principal) and I have talked a lot, and we feel that you are very valuable to our athletic program here. We definitely want to keep you. We will hire a new head coach for track, and we have approved a stipend for your cross country assistant." 

Me? Valuable? OMG, I'm VALUABLE!!!!!!!! It probably sounds silly to a lot of people reading this, but you have to understand where I'm coming from. In my 9 years of coaching, I've felt like the girl coach, the outsider, the one who doesn't belong among the male athletics world. To be listened to, be respected, and to be acknowledged as valuable was one of my proudest moments in my coaching career. It's up there with Jeremy signing a track scholarship in 2005, my girls making it to State, and my team winning their first meet.  In one short sentence, I felt validated. 

I really needed this breakthrough. I know I did the right thing. Even if they had decided to let me go and keep Coach C, I would still feel a peace about the situation. I'm so thankful that the AD sees me (a pregnant WOMAN) as a valuable coach. I know that's a rarity in small town lower Alabama. 

Run Happy and Coach Happy, friends!


  1. So super proud of you!! I know how you feel - when I get upset or mad, I tend to cry...which is like the LEAST convincing and professional thing in the world. Getting the courage to stand up for what you know is right can be so hard. You rocked it!

    Also, you're naming the baby Savannah?? SO PRETTY!


    Well done.

  3. Oh, and one more thing -- way to be prepared with your logical points and the prep cards! I have no doubt that you *did* rock it.

    It's hard to walk into an emotional situation and force yourself to keep it logical and professional (even while not pumped full of pregnancy hormones, so doubly impressive!).

    But, making the effort and successfully doing so always conveys confident patient competence. (Which, btw, doesn't even live in the same universe as doormat.)

    Super proud of you -- you are such a great role model for your athletes.

  4. This was a really fantastic post. Funny how that comment by the kindergarten teacher got proven to be so wrong. I won't even begin to pretend that her words inspired you to stand up for yourself… I don't know much about your details, but I am sure that you had that strength in you the whole time and it was your husbands observations and his words that helped you find some clarity in a messy situation… but I am still shocked that any kindergarten teacher in the entire universe would ever call a toddler a door mat! Unlike you, she must have really disliked her job. Keep up the great work. It is clear you are making a difference. Too bad Coach C couldn't find a way to bend and adjust to the changes in his world. Maybe someday he will be able to accept the chicks can coach.

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  8. You, my dear, have not only stood up for yourself, your athletes and did the "hard thing" but I think you made a much larger impression in the whole athletic culture in your area. I *may* have bragged about you to my Contemporary Issues class the other day when talking about power in organized sports:)

    I am so proud of my best friend-who has always been valuable to me!

  9. Way to go Rebecca! I am so proud of you!!

  10. Go for it, It's about the kids and they love you...

  11. Hooray! I am so proud of you for taking this chance and standing up for yourself. The kids are so lucky to have you-- you definitely are an asset there. This is just awesome. :-)