Lavar Ball Situation and How to Deal With Parents When Coaching Youth Football
Lavar Ball should be featured in Wikipedia under the term- Terrible Sports Parent. If you are coaching youth football you know guys like this. His actions have heightened awareness on the problems of problem sports parents.
We’ve all seen this buffoon on the news the last few weeks, so what has everyone up in arms? For starters this year his two younger sons Chino California High School team after winning their first nine games was playing in a tournament where Lavar Ball basically tried to hijack the team.
In the game you can actually hear Ball yell to the team to “double team”, reluctantly the players start to double team. The Head Coach Stephen Gilling has to call a timeout to get his players to stop double teaming and trapping and stay man to man. Chino rallied from a 12 point deficit to win the game, thanks to playing man to man.
The Big Incident
After the game a very upset Lavar Ball confronted Gilling and barged into the locker room even after be told to leave several times. Ball addressed the team and would not leave as reported by USA Today. So Gilling gathered the team and went back to the hotel, while Ball stayed behind with his sons. Once back at the hotel, Ball goes to the players rooms to get them to meet with him and talk about the game. Ball says to anyone that will listen “I run Chino Hills! I run UCLA, about to run the NBA!” So this parent puts himself squarely in the middle of a coach and his team.
Chino Hills High School
Meanwhile Lavar Ball’s two sons are no longer listening or talking to the coach. Daddy Ball also is a constant caller into sports- talk radio shows and has been on Fox Sports TV shows- the media love train wrecks. His oldest son Lonzo is tearing it up for UCLA, but UCLA isn’t immune from Mr Ball’s second guessing. Do you really want someone like that on your sidelines when you are coaching youth football?
I’m not going to be popular for saying this, but Coach Gilling has to accept some of the blame here. He should have put down clear boundaries for what was acceptable and unacceptable behavior from Mr Ball. After the locker room and hotel incident, Gilling should have had a meeting with his AD, then with Mr Ball. Without an apology and a written agreement signed as to how the relationship would go, the Ball boys don’t play or Gilling steps down. If the Ball boys chose not to talk to the coach or accept coaching from Gilling, they should have been removed from the team.
Coach Shares the Blame
Was Coach Gilling accommodating a sick situation so he could keep two DI basketball recruits on his team and win more games? No one knows. We all know guys coaching youth football will often times put up with horrific situations so they can win that shiny trophy. It;s sick but it happens. It shouldn’t be that way and most times teams that are saddled with that situation, no matter how talented they are will implode.
Gillings team went 30-3 and made a shallow run into the State Playoffs. So keeping the two studs on this team didn’t take him to the promised land. In the meanwhile I guarantee you, even with 30 wins this was a very difficult season for this coach. I’m guessing he dreaded coming to practices and games. Sound familiar?
Why bother? Coaching Youth Football should be fun for the kids AND you. Never let a parent that isn’t on the coaching staff stand out and disrupt your team dynamic. Once you let an outsider have influence over your program and the players see you AREN’T 100% in charge, they will lose respect for you. When you allow certain players to be above the team rules (they wouldn’t even listen or talk to him?) you are going to lose your team. When you have that tough game, your team is going to fold. That’s what happened with this very talented Chino Hills team.
I had a somewhat similar situation happen to me during the shooting of my “Worst to First” Reality TV Pilot, where I took an 8th grade team in Reno, Nevada that had won 6 games in 6 years. We were REALLY short backfield kids. Our best back, a two way starter and his dad weren’t happy with the way I was doing things and were holding back their effort and support. So I benched my best back and he started on defense too where we were equally short on athletes. It game to a head as they shared that if things didn’t go their way and he got more playing time and carries, they were threatening to quit. I let them know their player was talented but it didn’t matter to me at all whether they played or not as I had already been shuffling kids around so I could put different players into this kids spots.
The parents and player knew I wanted to win badly, for the kids and the show. I DIDN’T want to lose the kid, he was our best all around player on a team that was starved for talent. The parents figured I would let them have their way. I firmly stood my ground and guess what? They reluctantly came back into the fold. Remarkably the kid turned around his sour attitude and had a great season, scoring 10-11 touchdowns. More importantly all the other parental issues I was having with this dysfunctional team DISAPPEARED overnight. Why? Because the parents saw, it didn’t matter who you were or how good you were, the team was going to be run my way, if you didn’t like it, you were out. BUT when you give into talent and bully parents your parents will lose respect for you and feel more embolden. After that incident NO parent bothered to get in my way.
In closing, if you are out recruiting players for your youth football team, DON’T recruit players like these. The kids will always have a place to play. Let them and their parents be a cancer on your competitors program. It makes for a good chuckle when you beat a very talented team like that with less talent, great coaching and a cohesive team. Your kids, your coaching staff and YOU are going to have a LOT more fun WITHOUT clowns like this. Don’t trade your soul for the shiny trophy, which most likely you won’t win anyway- dysfunctional teams rarely win championships.
Our Winning Youth Football book has an entire chapter on how to manage parents: Winning Youth Football a Step by Step Plan Book