Basketball dads

Govolsextra has a new story up about how freshman Kamiko Williams feels pulled between listening to her dad and listening to her coach, Pat Summitt, for basketball advice.

This story makes me want to cuss.

To begin with, Hall of Fame Coach Summitt has been at the Tennessee helm 36 years, has eight National Championships under her belt, and has sent more players into the WNBA than any other collegiate coach. It’s safe to say she knows what she’s doing, as it is with Tara VanDerveer, Geno Auriemma and any other coach who’s been around since before the current crop of collegiate players were born. I can’t imagine even questioning any of those coaches.

I don’t know Williams’ dad, but I feel confident in guessing that his resume doesn’t come anywhere close to Summitt’s. Further, the University of Tennessee is paying for Kamiko Williams’ tuition, room and board. The Lady Vols take a private plane to away games, and their needs are met at every turn. They are essentially Williams’ employer, so she better do what Summitt says. The fact that Summitt didn’t point this out to her is quite laudable.

This story also calls to attention the frequent problem with player dads. And yes, I say only dads because it’s they who seem to have a need to pass on their “knowledge” to their daughters, and I’ve yet to see a meddling basketball player mother.

Once upon a time dads believed in coaches and didn’t try to interfere with the coaching process. But somewhere along the way in a society that doesn’t have any heroes anymore and increasingly tends to discredit experience and authority, some fathers began to have the idea that they know just as much, if not more than the coach.

In some cases, this might indeed be true. I worked with a young (high school level) coach a few years ago who didn’t know how to teach the game at all, and still doesn’t. But in the majority of cases, coaches were hired for a reason. Families need to respect that.

The most common thing is for high school player dads to yell things from the stands. Some are excessively negative; some tell the coach what to do, especially if she’s a female; and in the worst cases, parents will yell instructions to their daughter that contradict those of the coach.

The only thing more irritating than this was a case last year at a playoff game. The wife of one of the coaches was sitting about eight rows up, and she started making cutting remarks – quite loudly – about her husband’s players. How would you like to hear that when you’re 16 years old? I wanted to turn around and sock her.

High school parents, know this: just because you coached your daughter when she was six and showed her a few things in the driveway here and there doesn’t make you an expert. Watching Lakers games doesn’t mean you know more than the coach of your daughter’s team. If you have a serious issue – and that doesn’t mean you’re upset that your kid isn’t in the game all 32 minutes – then take it to the school athletic director. Don’t put your daughter in the middle like Williams, where she feels torn between listening to you and hearing her coach. That’s not fair to the kid because remember: she’s just a kid.

If you’re one of these dads, put yourself on time out.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Totally agree with you here.

    One thing I appreciated about my dad is that he generally critiqued my fundamentals rather than the coach's game plan. For example, asking why I didn't pump fake on a shot or telling me to be more decisive in my moves to the basket. Defensively, it was all about footwork. He refused to entertain my complaints about strategy because I wasn't doing all I could as a player.

    But I've seen some people go too far — the dad of one of my backcourt mates was a lawyer who would go up to the coach after the game and complain about minutes. Even worse, I was at a YMCA rec league game recently and heard a dad yelling at his second grade son because the kid's form wasn't right…

    Before even taking an issue to the AD, I think some parents need to step back and ask themselves, "What is the best thing my child's development…like beyond basketball?"

  2. Excellent comments. I like your dad's approach. Nothing wrong with giving a tip or two. The minutes complaining – that's a whole other column. But it drives coaches insane. They can never please everyone, but all like to complain.

    And yes, consider what's best for the kid. Many parents have lost sight of that.

  3. Oh, God, this. I've seen this with my own two eyes. "GIVE THE BALL TO SKY!" Constantly on her back. If he wasn't her dad, I'm really scared, to be honest with you. Our point guard a few years ago had an aunt like that, too.

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