Keep Pushing: A Response to Ashley’s Open Letter
A few weeks ago, we received the wonderful open letter from Ashley, a high school athlete struggling with her experiences on the basketball team. Since we posted it, the letter has found its way to nearly 50,000 people and inspired many others in their pursuits. In fact, the response to Ashley’s letter has been so positive and helpful that we actually had a small group of our best coaches reach out with their reactions. Here at CoachUp, we’re focused on providing experiences for all athletes — no matter their level or ability. Our heart still breaks for Ashley because we know the results would’ve been different had her coach been one of those that sent us a message afterwards. Although she’ll be on to bigger and better things in the future, we’re posting these thoughtful reactions nonetheless. We’ll be rooting for you in whatever comes next, Ashley!
“Honestly, this story really touched me and, unfortunately, this happens to many athletes out there. I think Ashley’s letter is something that I’ll end up using as an example to many others. Coaches at that level need to care about the athletes more than winning games. I don’t care if you want to win, you have to make sure everyone has a positive experience.
Coaches absolutely need to start treating players with more respect and not yell at them when they make mistakes. I think coaches can destroy an athlete’s confidence and motivation far too quickly. In youth sports, coaches and parents put way too much pressure on the kids to win games and be successful. They don’t understand it’s not about winning, it’s about the enjoyment of the game and improving every time you play.
You’re going to make plenty of mistakes, but who cares! Ashley’s letter really inspired me and I hope all the athletes that have terrible team experiences can find a way to make it a positive, learning and growing from it as much as possible.”
“The sad thing about this post is that it happens in schools everywhere! Being a basketball coach is a tough job and many coaches don’t know how to handle player development. My advice to Ashley would be not to let anyone impact her dreams — use all this as fuel to better yourself in both sport and life. When you get tired or frustrated with basketball, school, or life just think about that coach and how you strive to prove them wrong. Stay ambitious!”
“This failure is on the coach. Being a coach is a tough job, sure, but anyone who makes the team needs an objective roadmap for progression — whether that is playing time, strength levels, quickness, stamina, shot %, or whatever it may be. Athletes need objective goals that aren’t dependent on points or wins — give them something to strive for! For those who complete these goals, their work should be rewarded and promises fulfilled. I’m a high school coach, as well. I know the pressure of being in the moment and wanting to get a result from a game.
I think it’s up to coaches to put more belief in process vs. results. That’s a more long term, salient way of setting expectations for all players on the roster. It requires better planning, attention, and presence for all the players and then the coach must follow through. It’s a big ask, especially considering that coaches are usually underpaid, but it’s ultimately what separates good coaches from great ones. It’s easy to spout out platitudes about staying positive and always fighting, but unless we take the time to really think and lay plans out for our athletes, the game is rigged.
I’d rather lose a game because I followed through on a promise than win games while going back on my word to a player.”
Hopefully these words can help some coaches out there that are teetering on a dangerous edge within youth sports. Your abilities as a coach won’t be remembered solely on your win-loss record, but how you connect and shape young athletes as well. At their ages, many youth athletes need their coach to be a role model and somebody who can help them improve them while also providing a fun experience.
Coaches must take it on themselves to make sure they’re shaping the next generation of athletes, not muting it. Thanks to Anthony, Kyle, Vasili, and the rest of our CoachUp coaches for providing some wonderful insight to into this side of this discussion — but huge congratulations to Ashley. Many athletes, parents, and coaches around the country know your name and experiences now, so if it even helps one athlete, you will have changed everything.