Ron Mentus, Rlm Athletics 2015-11-16 04:04:09
Even with a Hall of Fame accolade on his resume, Paul Berry is quick to admit that his coaching career could have been better. In a candid review of his life in the athletic world, the veteran coach and administrator knows that his recent induction into the National Christian College Athletic Association Hall of Fame doesn’t elevate him to any kind of “superstar” status. Now in his retirement years, Berry reflected upon his past—with some regrets— while willing to advance some suggestions to future coaches, athletes and parents that might produce some golden results in today’s challenging sports environment. Berry’s coaching stints included Cedarville College (Ohio), Los Angeles Baptist College, George Fox College (Oregon) and as an assistant at San Diego Christian High School. He served as Athletics Director at Fox, Christian Heritage College in San Diego and at The Master’s College (California), before retiring in 2012. And while baseball is his forte, he has also coached soccer, basketball and football. With more than 40 years of experience, along with the ups, downs and uncertainties that have accompanied him on his journey, he was willing to offer advice and perspective about the current pressure-packed atmosphere of sports at virtually every level. And with tongue-in-cheek, he would probably subscribe to the corny adage that goes something like this: “We get too soon old…and too late smart!” So with that as a backdrop, let’s tune in to Paul Berry’s thoughts on coaching and the relevant matters of character and sportsmanship. “When I first started coaching it was my way or the highway,” Berry recalls with some reluctance. “I (probably) hurt some kids by not trying to work with them or fix their problems. “Looking back, we’d all love to start over again, wouldn’t we? As we learn and grow, we find that there are better ways to do things. So think I mellowed (as the years went by).” Not surprisingly, as a young coach Berry got caught up in the frenzy of resultsoriented outcomes. In other words, the only thing that counted was the scoreboard; victories and triumphs were his passwords. “I was very obsessed with winning,” he says. “Early on, I missed out on what I really should have been doing with young people. I was so consumed with winning; I used to think that was the most important thing. That was not a good path to take.” But as Berry soon discovered, winning was decidedly not the most important ingredient on the coaching menu. At first, he recalls telling himself how fortunate he was to have such a job and that he was getting paid to do it. As the years wore on, he would often tell his wife he was ready to quit. Yet between the alpha and omega years of his coaching career, memories piled up along the way, some of which he recounts with joy and others with some reservation. As with most coaches, his determination and resolve overcame the barriers of frustration and doubt. “As you get older, you learn things that you wish you had known when you were younger,” was his simple analysis. Berry said that in chatting with modern-day coaches, he learned that many had left the ranks due in no small part to parental interference. That comes as no surprise to those who are currently coaching, or have done so in the past. Too many parents will purportedly agree to hand their children to a coach, yet interfere with said coach’s attempts to actually do some coaching. It’s a problem which too often derails relationships and fosters resentment and acrimony. “The culture is so different nowadays,” Berry stated. “You’ve got parents who are right in the ear of the coach. I think that’s so out of control that I think it’s ruining high school athletics, from what I’ve been told by many coaches that I know. “Parents are so consumed with getting scholarships for their kids because they don’t want to pay for college. They don’t understand; they think scholarship means, ‘My kid gets to go to college free.’ So they put that on the coach; it’s the coach’s responsibility to get my kid a scholarship. There are very, very few who get that.” So is there a remedy for such unrealistic expectations? According to Berry, the coach’s authority must be given preference. “I think one of the things coaches need to do right up front with their program (is) to sit the parents down and basically explain things. Parents need to know (even as early as ninth grade) what the reality is of getting into college. “There are so many opportunities for kids. Most parents think only about Division I because that’s what they see on TV, but there are other opportunities. If their kids get good grades, that’s the best starting point, whether they’re great athletes or not. Then maybe they’ll be on their way to getting a decent scholarship.” Berry still feels that with some discretion—not abuse—coaches need to be tough. He mentioned that in his early career military service was mandatory, while now it’s voluntary. So how does this apply to today’s sporting environment? “(Back then) what they were learning in athletics and the military was preparing them for life,” he described. “Life is not a bed of roses; it’s going to be tough for many, many people. “So the toughness that was learned then should now be learned through high school athletics, for preparing the kids for the tough things in life. We’d all like to have our own path and do just what we like, but that’s not the way life works.” All of which leads to the oft-ignored issues of sportsmanship and character. Berry readily admits to some transgressions in his younger days and reasons that not enough action had been taken to control such behavior. Yes, he’s been ejected from games and has exhibited behavior which he acknowledges has not always been exemplary. “Things get written down, which are in place to improve sportsmanship,” he says. “But whether or not they’re followed through (is another story). They put these things out but they’re not enforced. Trying to develop sportsmanship qualities and things like that (is important) but there has to be consequences.” In a nutshell, if there are supposed rules or guidelines in place to curb violations, they must be backed with tangible emphasis. Otherwise, why pay mere lip service or turn a blind eye to certain indiscretions? If Berry were to go back and start his career over, he’d be sure to develop a mission statement where the details of his programs were front and center and clearly identified. There would be no question as to what was expected of student-athletes and what the consequences would be for failure to adhere to the outlined objectives and guidelines. “We can have all these lofty goals,” he adds, “but if we don’t know how we’re going to get to them, then they’re no good. We need to have measurable objectives about whether we’re meeting those goals or not. “We all get consumed with the X’s and O’s or planning practices and things like that. I didn’t spend nearly enough time in planning things about why athletics were supposed to be part of education, like developing young people’s leadership skills or character.” After reflecting on his more than four decades in sports, Berry has some relatively direct and pragmatic advice, from both the coaching and administrative perspectives. “You need to understand what you’re in coaching for,” he said. “And it’s not to win championships. If that’s what you’re in it for, you’re in the wrong business. “The best advice I ever got in college came in a class that was an introduction to coaching, which was this: ‘Remember, if you don’t love coaching—get out!’ If you don’t love it, you’re kids aren’t going to love it. You’re going to make them miserable and you’re going to be miserable and so is your family.” His years on the administrative side of athletics have allowed him to reflect on his past mistakes and use that experience to assist upcoming coaches with more meaningful clarity and confidence. “I felt I could go back and try to help young coaches understand what they needed to do to see the whole picture (where I was negligent) and get it right.” And with his selection to the NCCAA Hall of Fame, it’s evident that Berry has more than “gotten it right.” A virtual lifetime of noble and dedicated service in the sporting world has been duly recognized. So what lies ahead for the California native? For one thing, he’s still involved in baseball, but no longer on the fields of play. Berry is a tour guide at Dodger Stadium, where on occasion he rubs shoulders with manager Don Mattingly and the legendary broadcaster, Vin Scully. Not a bad way to spend those sunset years.
Published by Baseball Magazine. View All Articles.
This page can be found at http://www.omagdigital.com/article/HALL+OF+FAME+COACH+REVIEWS+CAREER/2324475/280866/article.html.