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Guido: New athletic director puts meddling parents in their place

| Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014, 1:06 a.m.
Upper St. Clair head coach Jim Render and quarterback Pete Coughlin celebrate after picking up a first down late in the fourth quarter against Mt. Lebanon Friday, Oct. 26, 2012, at Upper St. Clair High School.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Christopher Horner
Upper St. Clair head coach Jim Render and quarterback Pete Coughlin celebrate after picking up a first down late in the fourth quarter against Mt. Lebanon Friday, Oct. 26, 2012, at Upper St. Clair High School. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review

The new high school sports season is barely underway, and I have a hero already.

His name is Jeremy Flores, the new athletic director at Chambersburg in south central Pennsylvania.

Flores laid it on the line in a meeting with parents of athletes two weeks ago, and his actions should be a template for other school officials on handling parents proactively.

Chambersburg recently had become a swamp for the relations between parents and coaches.

From a series of newspaper articles distributed to various high school sports reporters around the state by Dave Burman of 105.5 FM in Lewistown, it seemed as if some Chambersburg parents were more interested in getting coaches fired, or at least in hot water, than seeing their school's sports programs succeed.

Groups of parents went after the last two girls basketball coaches, including recently with a 54-page booklet that reportedly featured statistics, surveys and “catchy artwork” in an effort to get a coach fired.

After that perceived success, parents set their sights on the football coach. There were even reported rumblings that the baseball coach, Bob Thomas, who had a streak of 50 consecutive winning seasons broken this past year, was next on the hit list.

With Flores in charge now, the chain of command will go like this: athletes and parents, to assistant coaches, to the head coach, to the athletic director, to the high school principal, to the superintendent, and then to the school board.

When a parent does talk to a coach, Flores said several areas of discussion are off limits such as playing time, team strategy, play calling and other athletes on the team.

“I believe 99.9 percent of the time, things can be resolved if you talk to a coach, because a lot of times, it's for a miscommunication or something with a simple solution,” Flores told the Chambersburg Public Opinion.

This is not to say all athletic parents are clunk heads. The vast majority enjoy watching their children perform and are in boosters clubs for all the right reasons.

Part of the problem is the parent who leads a successful effort to oust a coach, then brags about it as if he has bagged a trophy animal on an African safari. It then encourages others to do the same.

Three of the four winningest football coaches in WPIAL history — Jim Render of Upper St. Clair, Joe Hamilton of Blackhawk and Jack McCurry of North Hills — endured efforts of misguided parents who wanted to see pink slips issued.

Several Alle-Kiski Valley school boards, to their credit, won't even listen to a public berating of coaches, unlike what Chambersburg was apparently allowing. Quieter channels need to be created for parents to address concerns.

Parents would be much better off if they taught their children to see that disappointments and perceived slights are part of life and must be dealt with, sooner or later, in their adult years. I have interviewed dozens of ex-high school athletes on and off the record who had to deal with being passed over for promotions or more executive involvement in banking, law enforcement, education and other fields.

The ones who were able to reach back into their athletic and other youth endeavors were often best equipped to handle disappointments.

Flores said response to the meeting was positive.

“We haven't had one bit of negative feedback or emails, I think people appreciate that we were being up front,” Flores said Tuesday. “I am a big advocate of communication. We also have a 24-hour rule. After a game if someone is upset, we have them cool down for 24 hours, then if they are still concerned, call us and set up a meeting.”

George Guido is a Valley News Dispatch scholastic sports correspondent. His column appears Wednesdays.

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