Michael Lewis pens a fascinating article on Billy Fitzgerald, the longtime baseball coach at Isidore Newman School in New Orleans. Fitgerald has coached many exemplary student/athletes. Recently, some of them got together to fund the school’s gym renovation in his name.
Lewis’s article explores the friction between a coach trying to get the most out of student/athlete’s and parents who want to protect their children.
”The parents’ willingness to intercede on the kids’ behalf, to take the kids’ side, to protect the kid, in a not healthy way — there’s much more of that each year,” he said. ”It’s true in sports, it’s true in the classroom. And it’s only going to get worse.” – Scott McLeod, Newman’s headmaster.
Since then McLeod had been like a man in an earthquake straddling a fissure. On one side he had this coach about whom former players cared intensely; on the other side he had these newly organized and outraged parents of current players. When I asked him why he didn’t simply ignore the parents, he said, quickly, that he couldn’t do that: the parents were his customers. (”They pay a hefty tuition,” he said. ”They think that entitles them to a say.”) But when I asked him if he’d ever thought about firing Coach Fitz, he had to think hard about it. ”The parents want so much for their kids to have success as they define it,” he said. ”They want them to get into the best schools and go on to the best jobs. And so if they see their kid fail — if he’s only on the J.V., or the coach is yelling at him — somehow the school is responsible for that.” And while he didn’t see how he could ever ”fire a legend,” he did see how he could change him. Several times in his tenure he had done something his predecessors had never done: summon Fitz to his office and insist that he ”modify” his behavior. ”And to his credit,” the headmaster said, ”he did that.”