To the parents of every high school football player, we hear you.
We hear you in the stands. Your cheers and praise are very quiet, but complaints and criticisms are very loud in every coach’s ear.
I’ve been to a lot of high school sports in my lifetime. Being the son of a high school football coach, I spent many a Friday in the stands with my mom and grandfather at various high schools across the city. At that time, I remember a quote from my grandfather, who after hearing a fan talk about how poorly the team we were watching was performing and how they would whip them into shape, looked at me and said, “You know Ben, the best coaches are in the stands.“
My 11-year-old brain at that moment couldn’t really understand what he meant by that. But as I grew older and moved from being a fan to a player to eventually a coach, I learned exactly what he meant. To this day I have yet to attend or coach in a game that didn’t feature some sort of criticism or insult about the team these parents were supposedly rooting for.
For the longest time, I would get very angry at these people. How dare you criticize the hard work of these coaches and these players? Do you not know the amount of work that goes into the high school football game? Do you realize the amount of time we spend away from our own family and friends just for the sake of your child?
The answer to these questions is, no, they do not.
I didn’t really understand why someone would so passionately criticize a coach or an opposing player. That was, until I became a father. In 2021, my wife and I welcomed our first child into this world and she is my absolute everything. Holding her for the first time made me realize that there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for her. And as she’s growing older, I now understand why those parents are saying the things that they do.
In the end, parents want simply one thing – the very best experience for their child. You allow your child to play the sport of football and you want them to succeed. On the other hand, you don’t want anyone to hinder your child’s abilities, be it coaches, opposing players and other fans.
To most parents, their child is their favorite player. I know that I will be the biggest fan of my daughter at whatever she chooses to do, but I’m asking my fellow parents to take a moment this season. Before you scream out from the stands, “These coaches are idiots,” “They should be playing (fill in the blank),” “I think they need to run this offense“ or any other negative phrase. Stop and ask yourself some important questions.
Is what I’m saying really making a difference?
Is what I am saying helping or hurting my child?
It’s important to note that as a coach, we do understand that everyone wants what’s best for their children, but the beauty of high school football is it’s the ultimate team game. You need 11 individuals all collectively fighting for one goal. In a more grandiose sense, you need everyone – coaches, fans, teachers and parents all involved in order to get to a significant level of success.
Being a parent is the single, most important thing a human can do, and a parent’s job should be to guide them to being an adult. But I think as a community we need to do better as parents to think about not only their child, but everyone involved in our high school football teams.
I think most coaches would agree that we’re willing to take criticism, but as a parent, if you’re willing to dish criticism out to a coach, you shouldn’t be ashamed when that criticism comes back to you.
There were many parent meetings in which my father, the head coach at Northrop from 2010 to 2014, had with parents. The conversation usually began very aggressive but ended with understanding of one another. This was due to listening, respect and working together.
So this high school football season,, let’s go out to a game and support our athletes AND coaches. Cheer for our team’s successes and support them through their failures. If there’s something that you dislike about your child’s football program, don’t boo or criticize as loud as you can. Instead, I ask you to come watch practice or possibly set up a meeting with the head coach or position coach. Talk things through instead of being a nuisance in the stands at the very least, and an embarrassment at most.
I think you’ll find that more often than not the coaches have the best intentions for your child.
And in the end, that’s what we’re all looking for – the best in our children.
High school football coaches
Coaches Corner appears weekly at Outside the Huddle. The author Ben Martone played football in the SAC and has coached at North Side and Northrop. He is currently a teacher at Weisser Park Elementary in Fort Wayne Community Schools.