By: Marty Berson
After a recent game, I was approached by a parent who began venting to me about the lack of progress he has observed in his son since joining the high school program three years ago. He was addressing his frustration toward me since I was his son's current coach albeit this was my first year at the school. His major disappointment was that by his junior year his son hadn't made varsity. I listened to him and let him vent. I knew that his frustration was intended more toward the previous coaches of the program but summarily at me as well. I was the JV coach and had his son a short while. Albeit the brevity of the time coaching his son, I have helped him improve his pick off move, refined his breaking ball and fastball grips thus enabling him to get hitters out. From my perspective he had improved. He received the same coaching as all the other pitchers on my team. The father did most of the talking. It was apparent to me that defending the coaching and the program would be in vain. What coaching was given before was a moot point if even now he could not recognize his son's current improvement.
During my drive home that conversation resonated in my mind. It was very thought provoking. I had never considered the question of whose responsibility it was for a player's development; the player or the coach. As a varsity coach, I can never remember being questioned about the lack of progress of my players. I always considered it my responsibility to teach and help all my players understand and learn concepts. These concepts are the building blocks behind all of the principals of why and how we execute our drills. From my perspective, every player that has ever played for me received the same instruction on every facet of the game. Some absorbed, retained and continued utilizing what they had been taught while others did not. I have been very fortunate to have had numerous players make it to the major leagues. I have never taken credit for their successes. Rather, gave all the credit to them for their hard work and determination. A number have credited me for their successes but in essence, it was them. If I helped in any way, that was my job.
Thus the question, who is responsible for an individual's progress the player or the coach? From my perspective coaches are educators and players are students. I have always considered myself firstly an educator then a coach and as such, they like students, must do prescribed homework. The time spent at practice is insufficient if one wants to excel in their sport. Once an athlete is taught a specific skill or technique that is obvious that it will greatly enhance one's performance, it is the athlete's responsibility to perfect and embellish that skill. If an athlete is not willing to do homework in the form of conditioning, skill and technique work to master their sport, what can a coach do? Over the years there has been a rising current of criticism directed at coaches for team and student athletes' failure. It appears that coaches are held to a higher standard than classroom instructors. Far more coaches are fired than teachers or professors. It would behoove parents to consider firstly the amount of instruction presented vs the amount of completed homework before assigning blame for the lack of progress in their son/daughters' athletic development.