Parents have every right -- even a responsibility -- to take a very intense interest in their children's extracurricular activities.
But when angry and influential parents become too involved, a high school runs the danger of turning into a Bermuda Triangle for coaches.
Around the country, complaints from scorned parents and pouting players have led to the dismissal or resignation of dedicated coaches who say their enthusiasm for sports and athletics has faded.
Knowing the pressure coaches face, classroom teachers are refusing to step into the athletic arena, weakening the bond between sports and education.
That's a disturbing trend -- teacher-coaches have long been the lifeblood of high schools and respected professionals.
Among the reasons teachers give for not coaching is parents questioning their decisions and administrators not always willing to back them.
One coach said, "Coaches nowadays stick their necks into the guillotine, hold their breath and wait for the axe to drop."
At Payson High School the past few years, almost every varsity coach has been under some type of fire from disgruntled parents.
More than a few have opted not to expose their families to the harassment and have walked away from coaching.
The revolving door in the PHS football program has ushered in and out eight head coaches in the past 20 years. At Blue Ridge High School, the most successful football program in the state, there has been just one coach in the same time period.
PHS boys basketball has had six head coaches in the past two decades.
Perennial state power Mesa Mountain View, a program that has attracted --s transfer students --wo of the Rim Country's finest players, has had one.
And all the past coaches in the two PHS programs had, at various times in their tenure, to deal with parental unrest. Their complaints often center on insufficient playing time for their children.
Coaches argue unhappy parents miss the point: their task is to determine what is best for the team, not the individual.
Administrators often find themselves between a rock and a hard place. They must act on concerns for the welfare of the children while at the same time supporting their coaches.
Often while administrators are attempting to solve problems, coaches are the last to know they are under fire because parents have taken their wrath directly to the principal, athletic director or district superintendent.
If high school athletics at PHS and around the country are going to continue to be an integral part of the education process, there is a code of conduct parents should follow.
- Try, try, try to be objective.
- Don't criticize the coach in public or disrupt the team by making ultimatums.
- Don't over-react and rush off to an administrator if you feel an injustice has been done; investigate, but anticipate that the problem is not as it might appear.
Lastly, and most importantly, follow some very good advice from former Winslow High School basketball coach Jack Renkens. "You gave them life, now let them learn to handle it. Let them need you on their terms -- don't help them to death."