Tuesday, October 20, 2009

First disgruntled parent letter

Last night I wrote my first 'disgruntled parent' letter to a coach.

KoKo is getting robbed in 9th grade volleyball. First, she was one of a handful of players to attend the RLF sports excel program last summer. She does not miss practice. She does not have an attitude. She might not be the best player on the team, but she is most certainly not the worst. Yet, last night at parent's night, we saw KoKo - a 9th grader mind you - subbed out regularly during their second game while 8th graders never sat. Now when KoKo was an 8th grader last year, she chose to move up to the C team last year (and guess what - many of the girls who did not choose to move up, who just chose to have a few weeks off before winter sports, actually moved up to JV this year!) - she rarely got playing time on the C squad. And certainly not ahead of other 9th graders.

Leaving KoKo's talent out of this, what kind of message is this sending to an athlete? The parent handbook that the coaching staff sent out at the beginning of the year mentioned how attending extra work sessions (such as sports excel) might lead to extra playing time. But in KoKo's case it has led to a decrease in playing time. What sense does that make?

I am in no way calling for equal playing time. As a coach, I know that is BS. But when a talented player sits when inferior 8th graders play, what is the message that is being sent?

So I sent off an email to the coach and AD last night.

We shall see if it bears any fruit or if it falls on deaf ears as is prone for this program. And they wonder why girls are quitting sports at an alarming rate.

Here is a great example - Kristie used to volunteer coach 5th and 6th grade girls basketball. When she decided to stop, the head coach got her a plaque and had all her former players sign it. Well, we just got around to hanging the plaque up. One day I couldn't help but notice as I was looking at it, all of the players who have been weeded out. Upwards of 90 percent. Now what does that tell you about the health of a program?

But again, just look at the attendance levels for sports. The volleyball bleachers were almost empty - even though it was parents night. The same is true for winter sports - well the boys basketball program reels them in, but that might be because they are cooped (or it could be that the coach runs a positive program). Even the football games are sparsely attended.

What has happened? I remember a local business owner stop me on the street when I walked by his car dealership and he assured me that they would be tailgating before our second home game of my junior football season. And that was after not winning a game my first two years of varsity football!

And it is not like the programs have been unsuccessful in terms of wins and losses. They have not.

I think it's simply a disconnect between the public, parents, and the sports program.

And it's sad too because sports could be so much more meaningful for the kids. Again, I'll plug Mumm's program, but just look at this week how his players have worked with the special olympics. And that is just one small element of what makes his program so rewarding for players. Sure, some quit, but there are a lot who remain. There are even some who decide to come out their senior years - and they always find a role on the team. How rare is that?

Again, sports can mean so much to a kid. Or so little.


Anonymous said...

there is nothing wrong with the health of program, its the players being to lazy to work hard and their parents babying their golden children and pointing a finger at the only people left, the coaches. that is what is killing basketball program.

the players need to tough through all of the "hard stuff" and in the long run it helps these girls become better people. Anyone coming out of that program without quitting is going to have success in real life.

TeacherScribe said...

Thank you for responding.

Your comment, though, is itself a contradiction.

Initially, you claim that there is nothing wrong with the health of the program. However, you end that very same paragraph stating that the basketball program is being killed. Which is it? If it is healthy, then why is it dying?

If there is nothing wrong with the health of the program, then why are a majority of players (six, I believe) not participating?

If you are referring to KoKo as lazy, you are incorrect. Last year she had a total of two weeks OFF from athletics. It began with volleyball moved to basketball proceeded to softball (spring and summer) and included sports excel in the mornings.

As far as being a golden child, well, ha, no. The only golden child in our household is turning 13 months next week. But that gold is becoming a bit tarnished as she has 8 teeth now and is not afraid to use them!

As for your third claim, pointing fingers at the coaches, well why does the onus of blame continually have to be on the parents?

Let me ask you this: do you have a child? If you see them angry or sad or disappointed, it is your innate instinct to defend them and try to solve the issues affecting them.

Instead of offering the cliche response of heaping the blame on the parents or players, and placing none on the coaches, why not do what some other pograms have done?

One very successful program where I work actually polls the parents for their goals and asks for their input. The coach shares ALL information (both positive feedback and negative) at the initial mandatory parent meeting. That way there are no excuses for parents to bitch and moan. They had their issues addressed at that meeting. All stakeholders (parents, players, and coaches) are appeased this way. It was one of the most effective strategies I have ever seen. And it works.

I never had a problem with KoKo not going out for basketball. As a former athlete and coach, I know all the positives athletics can offer, and I was just questioning why she was not enjoying the sport anymore. It is that simple. Sorry if this has turned into more than that.

I think your final claim is quite ludicrous. I would say the same thing of any program or class stating that participation in that sole program would ensure success in 'real' life. I think athletics are helpful in enhancing one's ability to succeed later in life, but it is not the fulcrum for that.

Again, thanks for your feedback and willingness to be open and to share.

Brian Berdahl said...

Your name "Anonymous" speaks volumes. You are exactly why problems like these exist. I(we) have followed procedure with complaints I(we) have had in past. I (we)followed the rules set forth by school administration with no answers. AND, my children are not weak or lazy. I can only hope that you are not one of those who have taught or coached them in the past.

Anonymous, if you want to discuss facts, give me a call as there are many false rumors circulating. My Anonymous name is Brian Berdahl, Give me a call I will gladly discuss facts with you as they pertain to the handling of my (our) situation. Anonymous, you have painted this issue with a pretty broad brush.

AGAIN Anonymous, my name is Brian Berdahl.

Brian Remick said...

Mr. Reynolds, just a note that the RLF school district held a parent/athlete meeting in August. Mr. Kennett did cover many things as the AD, then we broke into smaller football and VB meetings. I spoke to the 6 parents I had there for football, spoke about many of the things you suggested about Coach Mumm. I don't know about the VB meeting, I wasn't there, so maybe you can let the readers know what you or your wife heard at the meeting?

Brian Remick said...

Mr. Berdahl, I am Brian Remick, JV coach in the RLF basketball program. You said you are willing to discuss with the anonymous person, so are you also willing to discuss with me? If so great, you can find my number in the phone book.

To be clear, I have coached all three of your daughthers. In fact, I would say this past season I probably had the most contact with them out of any of the coaches. So my question is, if I do work with all three of them more, does that mean the biggest problem you have is with me? I would like to know so that I can deal with this problem you have.

My guess is commincation is needed here, and with out talking to you I am not sure what I can do as I really don't know the problem. I do however have the time to discuss it/them with you if you care to discuss with me.

Are you willing to discuss facts with me too? I would like to listen and also share a few facts of my own. I hope you would be as willing to listen to me as I would be willing to listen to you.

Rumors are not good, some rumors are just plain crazy. Some paint a bad picture of coaches, others paint a bad picture of you. I guess I would love to exchange those thoughts with you.

To me Brian, the saddest part of all this is the friendship your family and the family of the head coach once shared is gone in an instant. Your kids and theirs together no more, visits to each others homes no more, trips the wives would take are no more. Just a sad thing.

So closing this, I will give you the same closing you gave to anonymous and say call me, would love to talk, hear some ideas, and even share some thoughts with you. My name is Brian Remick.

Kristie Reynolds said...

Thank you for your response, Mr. Remick and the little note of sarcasm, I can appreciate that. You must know that we didn't attend the volleyball meeting (otherwise no need for that comment), KoKo was at a girl scout camp and we had prior commitments.

I am unclear what your response has to do with Teacherscribe's rebuttal to Anonymous, but I will take the time to clear the air on the volleyball issue since that's what you alluded to.

If you read Teacherscribe's post following "Disgruntled Parent Letter" he does state that KoKo's "coach contacted me and ironed things out." I'll let the readers know that she and I had a very good conversation. She listened to some of my concerns and she told me some of her reasoning on KoKo's playing time. While I can't speak for her, I was very pleased with our talk. She even went so far as to speak with KoKo, letting her know that she could come to her for anything.

I spoke with Mr. Reynolds after my conversation with the coach and let him know how well it went. I did tell him that she felt his email was somewhat attacking. He emailed the coach and cc'd it to the AD to tell her how much I respect her as a coach and what a good job she does with the program. He also apologized if she felt attacked by his email as that was definitely not his intention.

He then saw the AD later that same day and again reiterated how well everything went.

I think the major problem, and one Teacherscribe admitted, was that his blog entry was posted prior to all of this but not read by others until after the issue was already resolved, so then perhaps taken out of context.

And I will say that though we didn't go to the meeting at the beginning of the season, we did read the Activity Handbook at the beginning of the school year. I guess Mr. Reynolds didn't exactly follow protocol as it states a meeting can be requested via a phone call and he chose to contact the coach via e-mail.

Again our issue was taken care of with utmost professionalism on the part of the coach-a woman I have always liked and respected.

Brian Remick said...

That's very good, glad to hear a successful story like that. All those involved should be commended and I am sure all parties felt much better after some good communication.

Sunny Bowman said...

WOW - I think this really goes to show how words can hurt. One thing that we need to take away from all of this is that there needs to be more open communication. When you get something in writing it can so very easily be taken out of context. Some people may possibly read this thinking, whoa, she's angry......when really I'm not, I'm happy, in a good mood, and looking forward to our match Thursday night and write this with a "just wanna share" attitude. So much is taken from a conversation that is spoken when you can get the demeanor and mood of the person talking that you cannot get from a written message. Don't get me wrong, I'm all about e-mails and letters.....however we have to take into consideration how others are going to perceive our writings.

I'm not gonna lie, I was ANGRY when I saw that there was someone bashing my program on the Internet for God and everyone to see, even if it was posted before thing were "ironed out". And I'm also not gonna lie when I say that I continue to think that it was bad judgment putting it online. HOWEVER, people have their opinions and people are going to state their opinions. Yes, I have children, and Yes I will be hurt when they are hurt and not getting what they (or I) think they deserve. They are both small right now, but I hope that when that time comes, I have the sense to ask myself, my child and the coach why this is happening before going on the instant offense, remembering that I don't know what's going on in practice and when I'm not around so I only have one side of the story, which I have learned already from my 4 year old, never has anything to do with anything that he does or has done. (I know english teacher very run-on sentence) :)

Growing up, I had the two most scary coaches a girl could think of in Coach Jurgens and Coach Krogstad. There were MANY people who openly and freely called them "bitches" EVERYDAY! However, I have to say that NOT ONCE was I afraid to go up to either of them and say, "ya know....I don't understand why this is happening. Is there something that I need to improve on, or is there something that I need to do better to get the desired result?" As one of the head volleyball coaches I haven't been approached once with questions such as this from the one being affected the most, the player. The only "complaints" that I have received are from parents because their daughter just doesn't understand, half with the pretense of "don't tell her that I'm talking to you." How am I supposed to solve the problem without talking to the kid? No one can tell me that my players think that I'm that intimidating. In fact, prior to posting this, I asked them all last night so I know. It all goes back to communication!

Sunny Bowman said...


In "real life" some people are going to be rich, some people are not....some people are going to have nice cars, some people are not......some people will get promoted, and some people will not. I am a believer that high school, including athletics, should teach our kids how to cope with the real world. There are going to be disappointments....They may write the best essay of thier life going for a college scholarship, and based on the scholarship presenters opinion of what is greatness, they may give it to someone else. They may work their tails off at their job when they are 30 years old going for a promotion, and the boss is going to give it to someone else because they are better suited for it or they have the ONE necessary skill that puts them above your kid. Everyone needs to understand that some kids are going to play a lot and some kids aren't going to play as much. In his first blog Mr Reynolds talks about roles...they are important and everyone has one, starter or not.....unfortunately some people have to be the ones to sit on the bench more than others and that does not mean that they have less value than ANY other player on the team.

I freely admit that I quit basketball prior to my senior year in high school, because I just didn't like it anymore. Why can't we just leave it at that? As we grow, our interests change, why does there have to be someone to blame?

TeacherScribe said...

Again, thanks to all who have responded. This discussion has been interesting and enlightening.

Believe it or not.

I just ask all who read, to simply read all of the posts. Or at least when you read a desired post, read it through and do not read just for specific things in mind.

I did blog about being a disgruntled parent. I have blogged about being a disgruntled teacher, a disgruntled human being, and a disgruntled who knows what else. But let’s not zero in on just a few entries out of well over a thousand.

But that is what is happening.

Read some of the 1,417 entries that I have on here and you’ll find that I have blogged about a variety of topics. Not all controversial.

If you read one of the above posts, you will note that I stated – “To be fair, KoKo's coach did call Kristie and things were ironed out. KoKo played all three games, with her team winning the final two (with KoKo serving the final three points in the third game).

Things were handled with respect and fairly. If you check the time I posted the previous blog, it was the next day. It was not like I was unhappy or ungrateful for how the matter was dealt with and then fired off that post. It was written the same time as my disgruntled email. My error was not getting around to posting this very entry the next evening.”

I sent an email to both the coach and our AD thanking them for how it was handled.

I posted another entry stating that I did blow off a little steam and that my previous entry should not be taken as a condemnation of all sports programs.

But I think some of that has been lost in this uproar.

As far as bashing goes, I guess this is the line that angered people about the bleachers being nearly empty on parent’s night. They appeared empty to me. I don’t think that is hardly in the territory of bashing.

I know several community members who keep blogs. Some I read; some I don’t. If you do not enjoy what is discussed here, as it is simply my blog with about 5 followers, do not read it. If you are interested or bothered, leave feedback as many have.

Again, thanks for honesty and feedback.

Again, to be clear, both my wife and I were very PLEASED with how the situation was both handled and resolved. We wish to thank again (for at least the fourth time now – taking into account blog entries, emails, conversations, and phone calls) the coach and AD. Thank you.

King of Kratka said...

You are totally off base here. I know because I have to put up with your crap day in and day out and I know you are always on the wrong side of right. I wish you could be more like the better looking Co-President of the TRF Education Association.

Yo Face Motha said...

All hail King of Kratka! Hoo Ha Hoo Ha.

Volleyball Coach 24/7 said...

I'm not even sure how I came across this blog, but the conversation was interesting to say the least.

My question that I can't figure out, is why wasn't the issue addressed before the dreaded "letter" had to be sent? Why didn't the athlete ask about playing time and what she needed to do in order to play more frequently? If she did, then what was it, how was she progressing at that and what did the coach suggest for her to do about her situation?

Next, why wasn't this done in person? I haven't ever seen a problem solved by way of email. Are parents afraid of coaches? Information can be transmitted but conclusions can't be drawn without both parties at one place.(that is obviously an opinion)

At the beginning it seemed talent was supposed to be negated. How can we do that? First off, don't the girls that play, try just as hard as those that don't? What about the entire program.If an athlete in 9th grade is better than an 8th grader, but only by a little, who has more potential? Is there a bigger picture in mind than just one game?

There is always ymca if you are playing just for fun. Its not easy to ride the pine.While success in sports isn't a direct correlate for life, some things don't change. If your coworker out-performs you, they get the raise.

Last note...once in a bench position, athletes have to fight to get back. Being just as good isn't enough. I tell my athletes you must outperform the person in front of you by 25%. Otherwise, I won't likely notice. (but I coach in college now, so life is quite different than h.s.)

I'm glad to see this was all resolved. Good luck parents, athletes and coaches!!