'Physically and emotionally, I'm drained': Resigning MN coach points finger at problematic parents
Editor's Note: This story was originally published on January 17, 2018.
Brainerd Warriors head boys basketball coach Scott Stanfield is a retired police officer, and with one comment may have summarized the feelings of many high school coaches across the state.
"I go from being a cop to this, and it's one stressful job to another and it's time for a break," Stanfield said. "Coaching was worse. Coaching has been way worse.
"If you win, it doesn't matter. If you lose, it doesn't matter. If their kid doesn't get enough playing time—look out."
Stanfield's frustrations are nothing new in the high school sports world. For the man in his seventh season as the Warriors' head coach, and 22nd season coaching in the program, those frustrations reached a climax.
At the end of last week, Brainerd High School activities director Charlie Campbell sent out a letter explaining this would be Stanfield's last year. Stanfield and his entire coaching staff will resign following this season.
The reason—some parents.
According to the letter: "It is hard for any of our coaches, including coach Stanfield, to find joy in this vocation when met with a general dissatisfaction, anger and/or hostility from an increasing number of parents."
Stanfield said it started last year and has spilled over into this season.
"It was after an away game, and over the year it just kind of hit a boiling point, and it was time to re-evaluate what we're doing as a school, maybe as a staff, and maybe as a parental community," Stanfield said. "We're not on the same page as far as what we want our kids to get out of the experience. A lot of times with high school sports, we're running two different roads with the AAU ball and the school ball.
"Unfortunately, one side wants things done one way and the other wants it the correct way, which is about educating our kids for life beyond a sport. That's what we've tried to do."
Stanfield stressed it was just some parents, and the majority of parents he's dealt with have been great.
He said despite his many years in the program, and his immense pride in helping student athletes become better in their sport, the decision wasn't hard.
"The difficult part was with the kids coming back next year," Stanfield said. "The difficult part was telling them that, physically and emotionally, I'm drained. I need to look at things and take care of myself and ... maybe be involved somewhere else."
In his first six seasons, Stanfield accumulated a 99-66 career record, including his second season, which resulted in a 28-2 record and a spot in the Class 4A state tournament.
Brainerd suffered only two losing seasons in Stanfield's tenure, including last year's 11-16 mark.
"On the basketball side, I think we changed the culture player-wise," Stanfield said. "Unfortunately, the parental culture the last couple of years hasn't come with us and that's been very difficult.
"I want to make sure I say that the backing of the majority of the parents is real. They are behind me 100 percent. Over the last week, I've felt that from parents whose kids I coached in the past to this year's parents. The bulk of the parents are very supportive. It's just kind of a group over the last couple of years that have weighed on my mind.
"As far as playing time for a kid, it's a battle and it's unfortunate that in basketball you can't play more kids."
Campbell said he's taking this resignation personally. He likes that his programs haven't seen much coaching turnover, but when something like this occurs it is frustrating and creates a time for self-evaluation.
"The hardest part for me is just the sense of professional failure that in some ways I have failed to create an environment where coaches want to take part in," Campbell said. "I know this is one coach and his staff so I need to be careful, but it's really a personal thing. What could I have done differently? What should I be doing to create an environment that is more conducive to keeping people?
"If this doesn't beg those questions, then I wouldn't be doing well in my position."
Stanfield said he's talked to coaching friends and many feel his frustrations. This is a problem across the country, however, and the answer is elusive.
"I don't know what it will take, but unfortunately, I think it starts at a very young age," Stanfield said. "Parents feel invested once they pay their way through the AAU experience and the travel experience. They have a lot of time and money invested in that. When the kids reach high school, and they become varsity players no matter what grade—you're basically bringing ninth- through 12th-grade players together—all four classes together and when they see their investment in time and money not paying off, I think they get a little upset. They see it as wasted time, when in fact, if they could take a step back and look at school-based athletics and the great things a kid can get out of it."
Campbell is hoping to change the narrative and to better educate players and parents about what high school sports are for.
"Over the course of this school year we have really identified some core values for our department that we want to be the focal point of our programs," Campbell said. "We are going to hone in on these core values and we need to talk about this more often. We need to talk to kids about it with greater frequency. We need to talk to our parent groups with greater frequency. I need to get in front of our school board and talk to them and our administrative teams across the district about these core values and what are teams are doing for kids beyond the sport itself.
"Sports are our platform, but we are an extension of the classroom. I don't think we say that enough. This is part of a growing-up process."
After a 5-1 start, Brainerd is suffering through a five-game losing streak. There are 15 games left on the schedule and Stanfield said he's all in for those 15 games. He believes his players are as well.
"I gave it everything I got," Stanfield said. "This year, we're not done. The kids know that and I know that. We're going to keep fighting, but I haven't felt good for a month because of it.
"It's just not worth it. If this can help bring some attention to the fact that something needs to change, then it's worth it, but the vast majority of parents are very supportive."