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When coach smokes, alarm should light up

The Baltimore Sun

DEAR CAL -- My daughter's softball coach is a nice guy and a good coach, but he smokes. During practices he sometimes walks down the behind the dugout and lights up. He's away from the field, but still close enough that the girls can see it. Am I making too much of this, or should I say something to him about it?

Candy Reasons, Wheeling, W.Va.

DEAR CANDY -- Many years ago, it was much more common for coaches to smoke during practices - sometimes even during games. But times have changed and this is no longer considered appropriate behavior. Part of the responsibility of being a youth coach is to be a positive role model, and smoking is not a behavior that we want to promote to young people.

The best way to handle this is to meet with the coach in private and express your concerns. You can do this without judging him simply by stating that you choose not to smoke and would prefer that your daughter not be exposed to smoking in an athletic setting.

One of the purposes of youth athletics is to expose kids to the idea of being active and developing a healthy lifestyle. Explain to the coach exactly what you told me - that you think he's doing a good job on the field and that you like him. What he does in his spare time is completely up to him and doesn't affect your feelings about him as a coach or a person. You would just prefer that your daughter not be exposed to cigarette smoking at softball practice.

This is a perfectly reasonable request and should not be offensive.

If the coach is walking away to smoke, he probably understands that he is not setting the best example, so curtailing his smoking should not be a big issue. However, if the response is negative, your best course might be to raise the issue with one of the program's administrative officials.

DEAR CAL -- When we participate in fall "rookie" baseball, there is always an attempt to place more focus on instruction throughout the season. In one situation this season, there is a father who sees himself as an expert in certain aspects of the game. H was not selected to be a coach and did not volunteer to be one, but he participates in practices from time to time. The difficulty arises when he will give his son instructions to "do it the way he knows how to," or he'll say, "My son already knows how to do that." Recently, he contradicted the head coach's instructions in front of the team. How do you think this should be handled without hurting the team or the player, who isn't responsible for his father's behavior?

Rick Heldman, Richmond, Va.

DEAR RICK -- The best way to handle this is for the coach to address the parent directly. It might help to have just the coach talk to the parent or to have the coach and assistant coaches talk to him separately and away from the field.

They should communicate honestly about what his behavior is doing to undermine the coaching. The coaches should arm themselves with specific details by making notes about what has happened so that they can make their case based on substance instead of getting into a discussion about who knows what or who is more qualified. Maybe after that discussion the parent can be offered an official position as an assistant, but the bottom one.

Have a question or issue arising from your involvement in youth sports? Send it by e-mail to askripken@baltimoresun.com.

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