Protecting Coaches

January 29, 2015

It's no secret that today's parents want a say in their children's high school athletic teams. But what happens when their voices lead to coaches being fired? In Minnesota, state legislators have tackled this issue by introducing a law that makes it illegal to fire a coach entirely because of parent criticism.

A statement reading, "The existence of parent complaints must not be the sole reason for a board to not renew a coaching contract," was added to an existing piece of legislation and signed into law on May 22. The original bill, passed a decade ago, provides coaches with certain rights upon their termination, such as a document outlining the reasons for their non-renewal and a chance to appeal their firing in front of the school board.

According to John Erickson, Executive Director of the Minnesota State High School Coaches Association (MSHSCA), the number of non-renewed coaching contracts in the state has risen steadily over the past decade. In ice hockey alone, he says, 110 coaches were let go in the past five years, with 38 claiming parental complaints were to blame.

"We have found that a lot of terminations were driven by parents," says Erickson. "Their involvement was putting unfair pressure on school boards and athletic directors, and coaches had no way to defend themselves."

Besides affecting current coaches, Erickson worried the frequent terminations and public attacks would deter future individuals from joining the profession, and he believes the new legislation can help prevent this. "We fear that young men and women who were considering coaching will take one look at the hostile work environment and say, 'I don't want any part of this,'" he says. "But coaching needs to remain an attractive position so we can continue to draw from a wealth of talent."

The Minnesota School Boards Association (MSBA) sent a letter to the House and Senate Education Committee chairs stating its opposition to the bill, arguing it is unnecessary to limit what school boards can and cannot consider when evaluating coaching contracts. Additionally, according to Kirk Schneidawind, MSBA's Deputy Executive Director for Governmental Relations, restricting the influence of parents' concerns in the process will close school board members off from the wishes of their constituents.

But Erickson sees it differently. "We are not questioning the school boards' authority in any way," he says. "We want them to have the same latitude they've always had. It just seems that school boards and administrators are under incredible pressure when parents are unhappy, and we are trying to make sure that stress doesn't influence a decision. The boards are compelled to investigate any complaints they deem legitimate, but they are not required to follow the demands of parents."

Erickson adds that the bill was never meant to silence parents. "This isn't about getting parents out of athletics, because the vast majority are supportive and encouraging," he says. "But it does give coaches the freedom to do their jobs without worrying about being unfairly attacked and fired."

The bill was introduced and co-authored by a former high school cross country coach, Rep. Dean Urdahl, and passed through the Minnesota House of Representatives 78-56 as part of the Omnibus Education Bill. After a joint Conference Committee between House and Senate members agreed on a final version, the bill moved through the Senate 41-26 on May 19. The governor signed it into law three days later.

Although he says there are still aspects of parental interactions with coaches that could be improved, Erickson considers this bill a step in the right direction. "We certainly weren't going to back down when it came to supporting our coaches, so we feel like we have made our point," he says. "With this law on the books, hopefully it makes our coaches' jobs easier and better."
From New World Of Coaching
Throughout the course of a season, a team will often go through a number of stages before, hopefully, fully meshing into a strong, high-performing unit. In order to help guide your team to this ultimate goal, it’s important to know how to recognize the different stages of development.
SEARCH for Products
SEARCH for Vendors

Make Your Lockers Look Like New

There’s few facility projects that can match the excitement of a new locker room. Everything looks perfect, works the ways it should, and the athletes look forward to spending time there. Over time, though, the luster of a new locker room can wear off. Fortunately, you can get lockers looking like new again by touching …

Find the Bag You Need

Bushwalker Bags from Diversa Products Groups is best known for the line of athletic training bags. But they also have several other bags that can make life easier on the road. For example, they offer a portable table bag with a padded cover and reinforced handles that will protect portable treatment tables. They also offer …

NBA Strength Coach Utilizes VersaClimber

VersaClimber equipment provides athletes with a challenging, effective, total-body workout. “I have been using the VersaClimber with my athletes for over 10 years with outstanding results,” writes Stan Kellers, Assistant Coach of Strength for the Cleveland Cavaliers. “Recently I have developed some very unique routines combining the climber with other movements in a circuit based …

Functional Carts for Sports Medicine Professionals

RhinoMedCarts allow athletic trainers and sports medicine professionals to keep all their supplies in a compact, mobile storage unit. “Toole & Associates Physical Therapy and Wellness Clinic has used the RhinoMedCart for over a year both in our clinic and on the field for football games,” said Doug Toole, Physical Therapist and former NFL Official. …

MostFit Resistance Loops Compliment Exercise

MostFit Resistance Loops are meant to help athletes build strength and align their body. These can be utilized for physical therapy, Pilates, yoga, and to compliment any type of exercise routine. To learn more about MostFit’s Resistance Loops, click here.

Stay at the Top of Your Game!
Receive articles like this by signing up for our newsletters