I have come to the conclusion that parents are ruining high school sports.
I don’t make that judgement lightly or without considering all options.
But when parents pour countless hours and thousands of dollars into their kids’ athletic careers, they expect immediate return on their investment.
And when they aren’t getting return on that investment, they complain - loudly - not directly to the coach, but to those in positions higher than the coach.
On Monday night, word came down that one of the state’s legendary high school coaches was terminated from his position.
Franz Boelter, a 1970 Windom graduate, was terminated from his volleyball coaching position at Bethlehem Academy in Faribault. He was the head volleyball coach for 26 seasons and head boys basketball coach for 30 and is in the state’s top 10 in career coaching victories and is a Hall of Fame coach in both sports.
In a statement released Monday by Boelter to KDHL Radio in Faribault, he stated three reasons for his dismissal: “emotional mistreatment of student-athletes, lack of concern for all players that are part of the program and failure as coach to live up to the mission of the school in treating all students with dignity and respect.”
“Ironically, these are three areas that we have always worked extremely hard on and have repeatedly been complimented on by opposing coaches and fans, as well as the vast majority of our past and present players and parents,” Boelter said in his statement to KDHL. “People have noted how well we treat and interact with our players, how all of our athletes seem to completely buy into the concept of TEAM and not ME, and how we all seem to care a great deal about each other as players, managers and coaches. In fact, I have spoken at state coaches clinics about these very things and the methods we use to foster them.
“As a coach, it is my responsibility, and my honor, to move our players beyond their self-perceived limits, moving them ‘outside of their box,’ and helping them to be the best players and people they can be.”
Boelter also referenced the school’s mission and how his program has worked to foster personal, spiritual and academic success, the importance of faith and being a positive influence to others.
I have had limited dealings with Boelter. I interviewed him when the Eagles played BA in back-to-back state championship games in 2007 and 2008. I have also talked to him a few times when he has been in Windom for various functions.
In my dealings with him, I found him to be a first-class individual and a first-class coach. And the success of his teams has spoken for itself with numerous state tournament appearances, several state titles and numerous players who have excelled at the collegiate level.
I personally was never a standout athlete and I grew up in a time when coaches yelled. Because of my lower talent level, I tended to get yelled at often.
But I would say that 99 percent of coaches, past and present, yell at players as a way to get their attention. Once they have their attention, they coach them in calmer tones.
In the few matches I watched Franz Boelter, he never struck me as a yeller. But you could see he had his players’ attention. The players, in return, responded to his instruction.
While school administrators dismissed him for the allegations cited, the current captains of the BA volleyball team and several teammates protested at their school Monday.
So, if the leaders of the team are saying Boelter’s dismissal was unjust, maybe the question to ask is why it’s happening at all.
What this situation reeks of to me is one or possibly two parents didn’t feel they were getting enough of a return on their investment.
Here’s my opinion of it:
• On top of the money it takes to play in one of the best Junior Olympic volleyball programs in the state, they are paying private school tuition to send their kid to BA.
• If their child isn’t playing, or isn’t playing enough, they question the investment.
• If the high school coach gives constructive criticism to try to make the player better, the parents think the coach is berating their child.
• And the kids aren’t completely innocent in this equation, either. They have come through the system, possibly starring at every stop along the way, only to find themselves in a different role once they get to varsity - maybe even, heaven forbid, a backup role. That’s a tough pill to swallow for some kids, who, rather than take the instruction of their coach and buy into their role to make themselves and the team better, they complain to their parents about a lack of playing time.
Recently-retired Windom coach Ron Wendorff coached with Boelter when each was first starting their careers at Medford. The two have remained close - never more so than when they faced off in back-to-back state title matches.
I see Wendorff as a good judge of character. So when he tells me that Boelter is a first-class individual, I’m inclined to believe him.
If parents can run off a coach with a track record like Boelter’s, it begs this question. Who would want to take on that job, where clearly the success of the team is not at the top of the priority list for some parents?
Why would any coach want to put up with that kind of overzealous parent?
And if overzealous parents can end a career as legendary as Franz Boelter’s, who will be left to coach kids?