Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Am I Back in High School?

I feel like I’m back in high school playing tennis for the Scots. I feel like I'm back in school playing #2 singles for a very good tennis team. When I first tried out for the team, the team was already good so I didn’t know if I would have a spot on the team. I didn’t have much experience, no competitive experience, but the coach was very impressed with my effort and gave me a spot on the team. I quickly proved to be a more than capable replacement for the guy whose spot I replaced. So here we are after year one and the tennis team has made great strides. The coach is really proud of the improvement we made this past season and he in fact deserves much of the credit for teaching us the correct techniques and teaching us more about the game of tennis itself. My coach has been instrumental in my personal improvement. With continued tutoring, I could see myself reaching the #1 singles spot leading a state caliber tennis team.

Everyone involved in the tennis program has noticed the great improvement the team has made. In fact, those tennis coaches from opposing teams often complement our coach and our team on the noticeable improvement. In fact, statistically speaking this was our best year ever and not only that but there was no chemistry issues whatsoever. Everyone on the team got along well together and every player respected their coach. The coach in turn respected his players. The tennis team was a very positive image for the school itself and all the players and the coach had reason to be proud of their accomplishments.

Unfortunately, the school athletic director did not appreciate the tennis team’s accomplishments quite like everyone else. In fact, the athletic director saw the whole situation as a threat to her own position. The tennis coach was so highly regarded by all his peers that she feared he may one day hope to become athletic director of the school. This thought was based solely on the insecurity of the director and the tennis coach made no indication whatsoever that he ever sought a position as athletic director. He was content coaching tennis, the game he knew and loved, and he was excited about all the players on his team. He knew that as good as they were this year, they’d be even better next year!

I play for a school that values football above all other sports. The athletic director has had experience coaching football. She coached using an aggressive style. She tended to use negative motivation to get what she felt like was the most out of her players. Practices were long and hard leaving players exhausted, but they did not feel a sense of accomplishment because the kept doing the same drill over and over again. The morale of the team remained low, but they performed satisfactory playing out of fear. Now the football team was coming off a disappointing year. In order to improve the team, the athletic director got rid of all the coaches and brought in friends and past acquaintances to fill the positions. Not all had a football background, but all had IQ’s above 120. The entire focus of the AD was football 24/7 and year round. When asked about the tennis team, the AD could only answer in the most basic terms. The conversation would quickly turn back to football.

Since the tennis team had such a great year, I figured the tennis program would continue as always and I was excited about the upcoming season. Well, that’s not exactly how things happened. Apparently, the interim Soccer coach was not happy with our tennis coach. The Soccer team had not won any games and was in fact having trouble getting players to try out for the team. This left the soccer team in shambles and the coach blamed the tennis coach for taking potential soccer players and not caring about the soccer team. She also had a personal dislike for the tennis coach. The reason for this dislike is unknown, but it was not because of the tennis coach’s personality. The tennis coach was the nicest person you will ever meet. Anyway, the soccer coach complained to the AD and somehow convinced the AD that the problems the soccer team had was all because of the tennis coach. The soccer coach had a son who took some tennis lessons and so she felt like she could handle coaching duties for both the tennis team and the soccer team if necessary. She had a long drive to work so she didn’t plan on staying at the school for long, but she would work both jobs in the interim. The one thing she was sure of was that the tennis coach needed to go.

Now the tennis coach appears to be headed somewhere else. So what could the soccer coach possibly say to convince the AD? For one thing, the AD did not care about the tennis team. The wellbeing of the tennis team was irrelevant to her. She would allow the team to continue as it was as long as it didn’t interfere with the football team, but she would never go out of her way to support the team. She also didn’t feel like tennis was even a sport. She didn’t feel like it required nearly as much skill as football. In fact, tennis requires very much skill, just different skills than that which makes football players successful. The AD wanted to make all the tennis players football players so she asked each tennis player to lift weights daily and practice kicking field goals. The tennis players were willing to do what they were told, but thought it was funny and a waste of time and talent to do these things which would not make them better tennis players. In fact it would probably make them worse players. Sometimes coaches take blame for their team’s poor play. Sometimes coaches are placed on the hot seat despite great play by their team, and sometimes kids teach adults. In this case, I just hope that the adults listen to the kids. Their innocence exposes the obvious faults and failings, and hopefully they will one day understand. The tennis coach may leave despite his love for his players, but he will coach again and he will be a great coach. His players will never forget him.

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