Whittell coach understanding of one-game NIAA suspension
After a trying defeat, the last person in the world a high school coach wants to talk to is a sportswriter.
More than times than not, the coach hasn’t had enough time to absorb the loss to be able to offer public comment. By the same token, the writer is usually under the duress of an impending deadline and doesn’t have time to allow a coach to heal their wounds.
Naturally, the scenario creates exchanges that are as combustible as the dead timber around Lake Tahoe.
Several weeks ago, Whittell High football coach Dennis Young chose the wrong source – The Tahoe Daily Tribune – to air his frustrations with the officiating in a 48-6 nonleague defeat at Portola.
“The referees cost us the football game,” he said. “I’m not the type of person to say that, but this is the one time I am. Man to man, we were better than they were. But it’s pretty tough when it’s 16 guys against 11. There was no way we were going to win that game.”
Young went on to question Portola’s sportsmanship, going for a two-point conversion leading by six touchdowns late in game, and delivering an “illegal” hit that knocked one of his players out of the game.
Those harsh words cost the second-year Whittell coach a one-game suspension, which Young served last week when the Warriors entertained defending state champion Lovelock. The Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association forbids its coaches from criticizing referees and officials in print.
When reached on Wednesday, Young was apologetic about his comments.
“I deserved it,” Young said. “I forgot about (the rule). That’s the way I felt at the time, but I shouldn’t have said anything. The NIAA is doing what they’re supposed to do.”
The NIAA didn’t return Tribune phone calls made on Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss the suspension.
Young’s suspension stirred some discussion in the local coaching fraternity.
Veteran Whittell coach Steve Maltase understands the rule, but he’s never seen it in writing and it’s not something that the school athletic director tells their coaches prior to each season.
“Early in my career I was probably frustrated a lot more … I was looking for answers. As you mature as a coach, you look at yourself and the team a little more for those answers,” he said.
Another high school coach on the South Shore was upset that the suspension impacted more than the disciplined coach.
“I don’t think the suspension was warranted for such a small school as Whittell. The only people it’s hurting are the players who have to play the next game,” said the coach, who wished to remain anonymous. “Dr. Hughes overstepped his bounds. Officials aren’t above it all, because sometimes they can make mistakes.”
Blaming defeats on officiating isn’t the right message to send to teenagers who often learn more than Xs and Os from their coach. Oftentimes players treat officials the way they see their coach deal with them. Then again, coaches have to make split-second decisions and many are still as competitive as they were when they played the game.
Too often coaches hold officials in too high of a regard. There is a reason they are officiating high school games, and it’s no different than the work of professionals in any other field. Mistakes occur. Short of the pipe dream of the NIAA instituting instant replay, coaches must eventually learn to overlook the bad calls.
“Definitely at our level, the 2A and 3A, we’re not going to get the most experienced referees. You just have to deal with it,” Maltase said.
If not, schools stand to lose more than their coaches for a game or two. The NIAA recently instituted a rule where a school can be fined for one of their coaches being tossed out of a game, according to Maltase.
“I’m sure if a school gets enough fines, I’m sure they’ll fire that coach,” Maltase said.
– Tribune Sports Editor Steve Yingling can be reached at (530) 542-8010 or firstname.lastname@example.org