Sense of entitlement doesn't help matters in HS sports | Opinion

Feb. 13—Many years ago, one Saturday afternoon I was covering a hockey game — a News-Herald coverage area team vs. a non-area team — at the old Metroplex.

Sometimes you're around long enough to close rinks out — that one hasn't been part of the hockey community for a long time now.

Pregame, I went to say hello to the two coaches — two of the most respected Ohio has ever produced. I left my bag — no computer, just notes and work-related material — briefly to go do this. Upon returning, I was floored to find a parent from the non-area team rifling through my bag.

"What are you doing?!" I asked increduously.

The parent, a noted Cleveland attorney, responded, "I wanted to find out who you were."

If that wasn't enough, the parent spent the next three periods feeding me names on goals and key action, as if the competence wasn't there to do that on my own.

We've all had people come into and out of our lives who have an astounding sense of entitlement.

Going through someone else's belongings without their permission cements this guy as one of those types of people.

It's sad when you hear stories in the high school sports landscape of good people, especially coaches, who are pressured out of their roles in part because of a sense of entitlement.

There was recently a story shared across Facebook about a successful girls basketball coach in another state who resigned midseason because of unrelenting parental pressure that had spiraled out of control. It was so bad not only did the coach step down, but the district from which she departed the role issued a public statement of support for her as she did.

While there are instances in which people have earned a say or a right to an opinion, we would be remiss if we didn't also acknowledge a sense of entitlement can be used as a weapon with negative consequences.

To be clear, if you've put in enough years of tangible success in your craft, you've earned the right to respect, reverence and, to some extent, control. But the way in which that right is applied only goes so far.

Last fall, there was a story that made the rounds in local high school football. A well-known coach had lost a game, and a fan of the team approached the coach's wife and said, paraphrasing, "I hope he drops dead."

Part of the problem that comes with success with any high school program — in any sport — is it cultivates a sense of expectation and an aura of smugness on the periphery that at minimum isn't fair to the principles within the program and, even in some cases, may infiltrate the program, too.

If a "fan" feels so strongly they feel empowered to walk up to a coach's wife and wish death upon her husband, that means sense of entitlement has gone off the deep end.

There are T-shirts with clever phrases and oft-used cliches, such as "Tradition never graduates." The reason it doesn't is because the work is put in throughout the years to ensure it doesn't.

Occasionally, circumstances lead to a drop in standard. But if the track record is consistent enough, it should mean some semblance of patience that it will come back sooner rather than later.

It's not just fans or parents who are guilty of a sense of entitlement. It does happen with coaches — the ones whose ego is as wide as the Grand Canyon and whose treatment of others should fall into a crevice that deep.

Those rare instances can occur through a variety of facets. But the one, above all, is enabling the behavior through sycophants and lack of institutional control.

Respect and results, after all, don't necessarily mean coaches shouldn't be held accountable when warranted. Even when they think they're above it.

I'm reminded of a long-ago story of a coach — as always, no names in order to better convey a point and be respectful of a situation buried under a pile of dust now.

But this coach and I got along very well. Then, unfortunately, one year, the coach found themselves in an unfortunate situation. Nothing illegal or overly inappropriate, but one that was enough for the school to suspend the coach for a few games.

The coach was livid the story was reported publicly. For much of the rest of the season, the coach thought they were being cute with a Bill Belichick tact to conversations. It took every bit of reserve I had to not tell this coach — again, one who I liked very much, even after this situation — that it was not my fault they were in an unfortunate situation.

You can understand the embarrassment of being publicly held accountable. You also have to look in the mirror when you do, though. Sense of entitlement does not absolve you of criticism, after all.

And yes, by the way, that goes for all of us, me included. There are times I haven't distinguished myself in my professional life, owned those mistakes, apologized and moved forward. Because that is what accountable people do.

There is a fine line between the right to carry yourself or your school or team to a high standard and a blatant sense of entitlement.

Those who are the best at their craft, from administrators to coaches to student-athletes and beyond, are the ones who toe that line impeccably and don't use it as a weapon.

Those who do use it as a weapon tarnish themselves, their schools and their communities.

That attorney/hockey parent who rifled through my work bag that one Saturday afternoon at the old Metroplex clearly wasn't told "No" very often.

Some people in life aren't. Yet they should be.

Here's to hoping more people realize what a precious gift respect is, instead of toying with it as a sense of entitlement that should not apply.