Burdening coaches with good intentions

by Jack Warren, Top Coach host and editor

Jack W 3I’ve been pondering this very column for weeks. As regular followers of Top Coach have probably observed, we really do not cross over that line into anything that would be considered controversial – unless you consider “How are today’s players different than when you started?” a touchy topic. So as not to stray too far from that path and, frankly, because the issue itself is not the problem, I’m going refrain from mentioning specifics. Consistent with our mission, however, I feel like I need to speak up for college baseball coaches who, for the most part, are constrained by the organizational bureaucracy that holds the purse, and are therefore unlikely to voice their displeasure.

About a month ago, a national collegiate baseball writer veered from his normal task of evaluating recruiting, coaching, and fastballs to become The National Scold. He led his column with, “college baseball has yet to confront” this particularly high profile issue (again, I mention no specifics, as the issue itself is not the problem). The problem is, he offered no evidence that it is a problem in college baseball. But akin to the old joke, “When did you stop beating your wife?”, it’s a loaded question that assumes that you’re guilty and you must now tell me what you’re going to do about it. Let me paraphrase his sentiments: “I realize that I offer no evidence whatsoever, but I related a feel-good anecdote and I’m sincere, so listen and take action.”

Generally speaking, college baseball coaches must do the most with the least. Outside of the biggest programs in the biggest conferences of D1 baseball, college coaches must deal with limited resources to turn out a top notch product. They don’t complain and they get the job done. They are, for the most part, a credit to the school and an asset to the community. Unlike college football and basketball, you don’t typically read about their players in the news section of the local paper.

To make a hard job even harder, the governing bodies of inter-collegiate athletics continue to pile upon coaches an ever increasing mountain of regulation, demanding even more of a coach and his underpaid staff. On top of all that, schools continue to ask these coaches to do more with less. And they do. College baseball coaches, for the most part, continue to turn out young men who will make a positive impact on our society.

So now a national sportswriter, citing no evidence whatsoever, makes a call for “college baseball” to confront a particular issue. “Yeah, sure – we’ve got nothing else to do. How about we bring in a representative of the NCAA and a spokesperson from an advocacy group? We can also conduct some seminars for the coaches and players. What’s that you say? You’re not going to give us any more time or resources?”

Don’t get me wrong. There are some real issues going on within collegiate athletics. Yes, even baseball. But, please, do us all a favor and don’t lay another task across the back of these hard working coaches until you can demonstrate that it’s something that really needs addressing. Some well-meaning, but sorely misguided, career functionary will be more than happy to take your pet project and run with it – because that’s all they do. And guess what? The average college or university has probably set up a whole (fully funded) department to deal with it.

Coaches, I salute you. And here’s to the day when an administrator approaches you and says, “Hey, you know that one thing you have to do every November? You don’t have to do that anymore.” Well, we can dream, can’t we?

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