Michigan coach on how parents made leading a winning program untenable

Former Gladstone coach Clayton Castor (Twitter screen shot)

Michigan coach on how parents made leading a winning program untenable

Outside The Box

Michigan coach on how parents made leading a winning program untenable

Clayton Castor never meant to set off an Internet firestorm when he spoke to his local paper, the Daily Press in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Yet, when he weighed in on why he resigned as the head boys basketball coach at Gladstone High — “parents have taken the fun and enjoyment right out of it.” — coaches, administrators and even other parents immediately felt accord with his sentiment. The message spread, and he now finds himself as the poster adult of responsible coaching and parenting, a spot he can fully inhabit as the parent of four children, two of which are all but certain to compete as part of the program he just departed. The program had 18 wins this past season, the most since 1996-97, and Castor finished with a two-year varsity head coaching record of 29-15.

USA TODAY High School Sports spoke with Castor about his decision to leave Gladstone and the broader ramifications it has for both high school sports and the broader scholastic community beyond sports. Here were his unedited comments:

RELATED: Michigan basketball coach resigns because ‘parents have taken the fun out of it’

“I’m not aware of the amount of attention (my comments have) received. I’ve been told they have. I got feedback from a lot of area coaches and a few actual phone calls saying thank you for saying it. I’m not an employee at the school except for coaching — I work as a laborer at Verso Paper — so I have more liberty to speak my mind.

I had multiple parents as the season went on, with a sense of entitlement. A couple parents campaigned against me all year, questioned everything we would do. You could read it on the kids’ body language, and I felt bad for the kids in particular. After you discuss it with the kids you get a better feel for what was going on. The parents felt entitled to starting positions and playing time, and we were never going to just give that to kids, it had to be earned.

Sometimes the sense of entitlement from the parents doesn’t line up with the ability of the kids. It really wore on me as a coach. We had one of the more successful seasons we’ve had in a long time at Gladstone, and I reflected back on the season, thought a lot about it. In the end, the time I spent turning the program around over the past five years, all the time I spent away from my family, it wasn’t worth it if I had to deal with parents like that.

I was very fortunate to coach for a school that has a great administration. The athletic director and principal were both very supportive. I have two boys that are going to be in the program, so I want what’s best for the program. The administration could not be any better.

I think administrators in general are so used to dealing with this that it has become common. It’s so heartbreaking. You have people like LaVar Ball in the national news who are out of control and everyone sees that. I think we as a community need to hold each other more accountable, and when you see something like this you have to speak up about it. I was disappointed that no one spoke up about the issues we had with the parents, and all the parents knew about what was going on. …

Our coaches made all decisions on playing time as a program, so it was never just my decision, and usually those decisions were unanimous. Going into the meeting with a parent I felt good about it and could justify what we were doing.

I really think that parents should take a step back and really take time to evaluate the situation. Coaches, myself included, I’ve taken an immense amount of time away from my family and other things I wanted to do. Gladstone schools will have a hard time finding another coach who would put in the time I did. I would caution the parents about what they’re doing because you never know who the next person is going to be, or if there will be a next person. There’s only so many good coaches out there.

I also think sometimes players have to have more honest conversations with their parents. I probably would have encouraged our parents to have more honest conversations with their parents, and I know it’s hard to do, but sometimes you have to speak up and say you believe in something. I think the blue ribbon mentality we have is killing youth sports in this country. The participation mentality makes everyone think that they should walk out of there with a ribbon for participating.

I think it also is worth saying, as a parent, what do you want to get out of high school sports? I’m not looking for my four kids to get scholarships, to be a star on a team or to get an award. I just want them to be the best they can be, and to walk away from sports with memories and life lessons. That’s why we should be encouraging kids to play sports, for those life lessons and to be better citizens. That gets lost somewhere. If we go into a sporting event and play with high morals, we’re winners at the end whether we win or lose. That’s where parents’ focus should be.”

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