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Our Opinion: Parent interference with coaching needs to stop

You don't often hear the bluntness Brainerd Warriors head basketball coach Scott Stanfield used to describe the hostility he has experienced from some parents.

"I go from being a cop to this, and it's one stressful job to another and it's time for a break," Stanfield, a former Brainerd police officer, said in a story the Dispatch published Tuesday. "Coaching was worse. Coaching has been way worse.

"If you win, it doesn't matter. If you lose, it doesn't matter. If their kid doesn't get enough playing time—look out."

It's unfortunate, but not all that shocking. Such bad behavior from parents is not a new phenomena in high school athletics. More shocking is that there's been no reform or push to call out and change such behavior.

We think Stanfield hit the nail on the head by pointing to traveling/clubs sports programs, non-school-related athletics organizations where many young athletes get a start in their chosen sport.

There is nothing wrong with participation on traveling/club sports teams. The programs allow kids to learn and hone their skills in a sport at young age. The problem may be parents' expectations. We get it; parents spend a lot of time and money on their children's sports, but success or playing time in traveling/clubs programs isn't a guarantee for high school athletics. At a high school level it's time for the parents to become spectators and trust in the coaching decisions.

High school sports are an extracurricular activity. There are no guarantees. Parents need to respect the process the coach employs or that process won't work. And high school sports should be fun. The stress Stanfield describes doesn't sound fun and it certainly doesn't sound like it would be fun for the young athletes he coaches.

It's the coaches program, not the parents. School districts make the hiring decisions, so let the coaches coach. Even if a parent disagrees with coaching decisions, there has to be a more civil way to get their argument across. High school sports is about learning leadership and teamwork, reaching goals and learning how to handle winning as well as losing.

Stanfield and his entire coaching staff will be resigning their positions following the current season. We agree with Brainerd High School Activities Director Charlie Campbell, who in a letter to parents noted it would be hard for Stanfield, or any coach for that matter, "to find joy in this vocation when met with a general dissatisfaction, anger and/or hostility from an increasing number of parents."

What happens with the next coach? Ultimately, the outcome is some of best coach candidates won't step in to fill position. At that point, everyone loses—the school, the team, the spectators.

Will parents of student athletes be able to police themselves? We hope so, but won't hold our breath. Instead, we think it's time for aggressive parents to find their way to the exits, potentially for good. And if they can't find the exit, maybe we should help them to do so.

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