I'm hearing some variation of this over and over again: "My kids looked forward to playing varsity soccer in high school, but they (or we) have been disappointed with the experience." Why?
In this article, let's explore the downside of the varsity experience and what we can do about it.
The Varsity Experience Summary
Where we live, our Varsity players play 12 games in 6 weeks. After tryouts, selected players get a few weeks of preparation, then a rapid fire schedule of games and practices. There are playoffs at the end and teacher-coaches along the way. Kids play in front of their peers for school pride. Wins are lauded during the school day. Losses lamented. Cheer leaders turn out to fire up the crowds and all manner of fast food is sold, along with $5 tickets to get in.
Games are lunchroom, hallway, and even the occasional class time discussion. In other words, varsity sports are very much part of the fabric of the school and everybody knows about them. To get on a varsity team is a big deal. Cultures for each sport evolve each year. Everyone knows the "Lax boys," the "soccer players," the "football players," and the swimmers. Everyone knows how the various teams are doing, and even if a student is not a player on a team, it's often school yard conversation about what happened at the last game, who beats who, and what players are the play makers. To be on a varsity team in high school means a certain amount of celebrity.
Youth sports in high school is meant to be "an extension of the classroom" with a focus on developing "the whole child." In our area, this is made clear through pre-gam announcements before every match. Have a listen to this:
Listen to this opening announcement from earlier this week.
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Challenges Faced By High Schools
Out of the gate, I have to admit that although I coach and parent kids of High School age, I am not a High School teacher or coach and I am not privy to the internal politics and budget constraints of high schools in general. I have some very specific experience that I am extrapolating to a bigger picture. My experience as the coach of high school players, as a father of high school students, as the host of this show who reads and listens to feedback from listeners, and the weekly reading I've done on the subject (found in the show notes for every episode) informs my opinion. My opinion doesn't represent every situation. Your situation may be different from what I describe here. These issues are in no particular order:
I spoke with athletic directors, coaches, and teachers from several schools. They are unanimous about the fact that there are not enough people around who are willing to coach. At least not around here.
"We're lucky to get anyone to take the job. It pays $15/hour. It takes up a lot of time. And it's a thankless job that comes with a lot of parent hassles." said one person who I spoke with two weeks ago. I heard similar comments from several different people in the last two weeks. I got a sense from those discussions that "we'll take anybody. "
I want to be clear about something. I'm not saying that if somebody steps up and takes a job that no one else wants, that the person who stepped up is somehow lesser quality than the person who wins a job that has stiff competition. I'm a fan of taking on jobs that nobody else wants. For the right person, these kinds of jobs are pure opportunity gold. When a hard working, creative, visionary type person steps up and takes on a job that nobody else wants, they often have an opportunity to turn it into whatever they want. The right kind of person can break paradigms, overhaul an antiquated system, bring value beyond anyone's imagination...
However, when someone takes the job to avoid doing another job, just because they need the $15/hr, because they're not qualified to do anything else,
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