On Education: Lessons learned from a high school coach

Kush fits the bill of the classic old-school coach: intense, driven, passionate and loud.

Grant Frend is principal at THSS.

Grant Frend is principal at THSS.

When I think back on the people who have impacted me the most, excluding family, at the top of the list is my high school basketball coach, Tyler Kushnir (aka ‘Kush’).

Kush fits the bill of the classic old-school coach: intense, driven, passionate and loud, when he needed to be.

He set high expectations and high standards and called us on it when we weren’t achieving at the level we should.

Our team was incredibly competitive, winning our league, region, and the Fraser Valley championship.

We finished fifth at the provincials.

I gave my all to the team, practicing for two hours a day for months, all the while knowing my place was on the bench, as our 13th man.

I was a human victory cigar, a one man celebration parade, if you will.

If I was playing, we were winning by 20.

Well, more likely 30.

And I didn’t care. I had a spot. A jersey. A role. A team.

Although I knew I wouldn’t play in any games that were close, I still gave my all in practice, because our top guys would only get better if I gave 100 per cent.

Kush was realistic and fair, telling me when the team was selected what my role would be.

I ate it up, and had the best athletic experience of my life.

As much as I valued the friendships with my teammates, I also valued the time Kush spent with us making us better players and better young men.

As a principal, I now recognize how important volunteerism is to high school athletics.

Whether it be a teacher, other staff member, parent or community volunteer, high school athletics wouldn’t exist without volunteers.

All of our coaches volunteer their time, including teachers.

These volunteers sacrifice their time to give to our students and community.

Volunteers also sacrifice time with their own family and friends to spend time with our students.

Often, our coaches do so without being thanked or recognized for their contributions.

And, yet, they continue for a love of the game and a love of working with kids.

At times, parents may have concerns that need to be addressed with the coach.

I have some suggestions to help resolve issues with a high school coach in an amicable manner.

• Make an appointment and let the coach know ahead of time what you would like to discuss.

Never attempt to discuss a concern immediately after a game.

Emotions are often high, and when this is the case, arriving at a solution is difficult.

As well, coaches often have other duties they must attend to after a game.

Call or email the coach and ask to set up a meeting time. Let the coach know what you would like to discuss so he or she can be prepared.

Do not attempt to resolve a conflict over email. This can result in misunderstandings and exacerbate the problem.

• Remain calm and respectful throughout the conversation.

Remember, the coach is a volunteer who is donating his or her time to all of the student athletes on the team.

The coach must also balance the needs and wants of individual players with the needs and wants of the team.

This can be a difficult balancing act.

Not everything on the team will be equal, but all student athletes should be treated fairly and with the same level of respect.

• Share your concerns and remain open minded.

Share your concerns with the coach in a non-judgmental manner and be open-minded when listening to the coach’s response.

Speak to how your child is feeling and ask the coach how the problem might be solved.

Often, a meeting will solve the issues or provide clarification for all parties involved.

• Look for life lessons.

Prepare yourself for the fact that your opinion may differ from the opinion of the coach.

As adults, we must model for our children how to handle conflict and disagreement in a mature, productive manner.

This may end up being the case.

If you are still unsatisfied after discussing your concern with the coach, contact the athletic director of the school.

He or she is an additional person who may be able to help.

Remember, though, the athletic director is also a volunteer who donates time to coordinate logistics for all school teams.

I learned some of the most valuable lessons I have ever learned as the 13th man: dedication, teamwork, commitment, and selflessness.

I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to learn those lessons in that context if it wasn’t for the hundreds of hours Kush gave to our team.

So once again, thanks Kush. You made a difference.


– Grant Frend is principal at Thomas Haney secondary.