Should High School Coaches Be Fired For Not Winning?

Every off season of whatever sport it maybe professional or college, the headlines are flooded with what college coach got a professional job, what coach is moving from this college to that, or what coach was just fired for not winning. If there is a coaching vacancy, it most likely was due to the program/sport not winning. It is not very often you hear too much about high school coaches being fired for lack of winning, but should this happen? I would say, yes!

Here in Northern Minnesota I can’t remember the last time a high school coach of any sport was fired, relieved of their duties, demoted or whatever you want to call if because the team was not winning. I understand kids don’t go to high school to play sports, but to get an education. But please, no matter what sport it is, a school loves the media coverage, positive school environment and student participation they will get for a winning team, especially the big three football, basketball and hockey.

I bring this up because of the semi-recent coaching change at Hermantown High School and the boys basketball team. Mike Pothast took over the team after having a record of 1-25 in 2007-2008. The team has improved its record every season since Mr. Pothast was named head coach. To my knowledge the coach before was not fired but just stepped down. This is a very good example of new blood coming in, reviving a program through hard work and getting the student body excited about a sport other than the successful hockey team.

Should a coach be fired for one terrible season like the 1-25 record mentioned earlier? No but if their team is consistently bad, I would argue a new coach is needed. At the high school level a coach is just as important for the programs success as its failures. When the team is winning or at least competitive, more students want to play, more students stay out of trouble, more students try harder in the classroom to stay eligible to play, and the playing arenas are filled with spectators wanting to watch their fellow students compete.

I know at the high school level with teachers, unions and school boards, firing is more difficult than at the professional and college levels, but coaches need to be held accountable for consistently bad teams year after year. School districts need fire more coaches for consistently bad teams, and they need to bring in someone new, someone with new ideas, someone new the kids will respond to, and someone who will show some ambition to improve the program. I would also argue even at the high school level, teams are bad because their coaches are bad.

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Eddie Bashaw

Living in Duluth, Minnesota and I love writing about it.

10 thoughts on “Should High School Coaches Be Fired For Not Winning?”

  1. Winning and losing are what we use to identify good, or bad, athletic teams. This is part of our culture – it is what it is. A much larger issue is how individuals in positions of authority, primarily coaches, use winning records to justify their coaching style and actions.

    I’m absolutely 100% behind accountability for coaches, and have yet to see a coach held accountable for their actions on a way to a winning record. Too often, a winning record says that the coach is doing everything right – IMHO it does little to justify the means by which a coach creates the winning record – this is where the accountability is lost and rendered insignificant.

    At the high school level, win/loss records do little to accurately measure a program’s relative success as part of the much larger mission of the school itself. Be careful what you wish for…

  2. I 100% that coaches should not only be fired based on losing, but for not maintaining a program with integrity and morals (to go with the Maple Grove hockey sex scandal, that coach should be fired).

    In this day and age, I am getting sick and tired of hearing about how everyone is a winner in public schools. With this theory, we are instilling in kids this mentality that “it doesn’t matter what I do, I am still a winner.” This does nothing to teach kids important lessons of perseverance, hard work, and dedication, and the rewards of that go along with these qualities. Outside of high school, those who go on to have the most fulfilling lives and successful careers often have these traits. By the time these kids are in high school, they need to start being treated like adults and being prepared for their proverbial “push the baby bird out of the nest”.

    I won’t use names to protect those involved, but about 5 years ago; I was a highschooler who played basketball in the northland. My school was perennially terrible, and every year, we knew this wasn’t going to change. Players frequently missed open gym in the summer, didn’t work out in the offseason, knowing that when the time came they would still get their chance to play due to the lack of players. We would go 5-21 and that was the end of it. My junior year, we had a coaching change. Our new coach was a little more caring and determined than usual. He hung posters up saying “believe” in the locker room, and we would just laugh. Frequently he would tear kids to shreds in front of their teammates, and I would have to admit sometimes it was taken a little too far. Looking back, it was the only way you would be able to get through to an arrogant kid like me that felt he was entitled to be there, even though I didn’t really care about winning. With this sudden change in philosophy, my teammates and I started to not like the game of basketball anymore because it was different than the rest of my career. We had 8 juniors on that team. Our senior year, only 2 played, I was not included. That’s right, I quit along with 6 others because I/we didn’t want to put the time in it would take now in this new coaches mind. Our senior year at the time seemed to justify our decision, as the team was of course not very good because of the limited amount of upper classmen.

    5 years later, I look back, and what I did taught me a valuable lesson. Quitters don’t win. The fact is, playing that year would have been more fun even with the added work because I enjoyed the game, just not the work. I could have learned those lessons while having fun, but I instead chose to learn them from the other side of the fence.

    After a few years now of that coach weeding out the arrogant and nonchalant attitude of players like me, he has his basketball team off to a 14-2 start. The best start the school has seen in a long time. Those kids on this team I guarantee have worked their butts off, and they are being rewarded with success. This mentality carries off the court as well. Leadership, determination, hard work, and perseverance are attributes that go further than any sporting event, and always will no matter how many more rights we entitle to children on a yearly basis. Life eventually will catch up to those who don’t understand these values.

  3. Does it do any of the kids any good to be in a crappy program? One only has to look at another conference coach who consistently develops college players, who get scholarships to pay their college costs. Who would you want your son or daughter to play for? I would pick the coach who comes through for the kids. Look at the Braham program and the number of kids that have gone through that program, both boys and girls, getting college paid for them. Financially their parents are the winners as well as the students.

    1. If you recruit or absorb surrounding players it helps too. Check the address book on the Braham kids.

  4. I definitely agree with this view. The problem about a coach who consistently gets bad results, is that bad coaching can decimate a high school sports program. In other words, girls who might join a softball team but are torn between track and softball will probably look at the team’s record and reputation and decide they don’t want to be a part of an always losing team.
    And I definitely agree that bad teams are caused by bad coaches. I have seen teams with a number of talented athletes who constantly lose because of bad decisions made by the coach. It’s frustrating as parents to watch but even more frustrating to the athletes, who know that given the right choices, they are more than capable of winning. Coaches with bad season after bad season should go.

  5. I feel after coaching for 38 years, the coach should be evaluated each year and if there are problems in certain areas of coaching or handling of players he should be informed and given the opportunity to correct these areas. You learn as a coach and also as a teacher that your job is to get the most out of your students. A good coach learns from mistakes and is able to adjust to his players. But to be judged only on his win lost record is garbage!

  6. Too complicated to simply say yes or no. Being competetive, having a positive impact, having the tools to teach and coach well are requisites in my book. If you don’t have them, you are in the wrong position. Just because you have those tools does not mean you will have a winning record. I can list personal examples where I had great coaches and we lost, and had poor coaches and we did well. The record is not the indicator. Ask the kids. Did the coach have a positive impact on your life? Are you a stronger, better person and player because of the coach’s guidance? That is what a coach is, in my opinion. Some get it, some go with the cultural norms of winning at all costs. There is concept called “transactional coaching” there is very prevalent in sport culture today. I will simply say, if you coach my children this way, you are on my poo-poo list. Inside Out Coaching by Joe Ehrmann is a great book. I would highly reccomend to anyone interested in coaching or who has children in athletics read it twice.

  7. What about poor programs being caused by poor parenting and lack of support for the school? As a successful coach of over 20 years, I have had teams play in the state basketball tournament and teams who have won 8 games. The one constant that determined a lot of the successes and failures of my teams were the parents. When the kids know their parents support the program, its rules, and the school, success will not be far behind. When you get a group of parents who see things through “rose colored” glasses and blame the coaches for the lack of effort and commitment from the players you will usually have a season of regrets.

    I do agree that coaches should be held accountable for their actions, work ethic, moral decisions, and commitment to excellence. To decide the fate of a coach because their is a lack of talent coming through the school is ridiculous. Outside of a select few programs in our state, most coaches cannot recruit their team each year. They are forced to work with who they have.

  8. I coached high school sports for 34 years and a coach that doesn’t strive to win should be fired day after season. To many high school coaches give little effort and take money under false pretenses. If they don’t put an excellent product on the field every year they should be dismissed no place in coaching for slacking and not giving 100 % everyday. You do that the coach will be good every year Coaching is not for very many people you have to be able to handle pressure realizing you are only as good as a coach on how your team performs. You must understand as a coach you don’t buy a house because you could be moving a lot if you don’t win that is just how it is Being fired is part of the profession.

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