Model Citizens Magazine

The Challenges of Youth Sports in a Competitive World.

The Challenges of Youth Sports in a Competitive World by Robert Zabbia. 

Being a youth coach in today’s world has it challenges.  Parent’s have high expectations for their children and see sports as a ticket to getting into college for free or at a very favorable way. So, parent’s push hard on the coaches, thinking that their eight year old child is going to be the next Wayne Gretzky, LeBron James, Patrick Mahomes, or here on Long Island, Paul Rabil.

Long Island is known as one of the most heavily recruited areas for College Lacrosse. As the sport is growing in popularity, the competition from other parts of the country is getting stiffer. But many Long Island Parents still think we are the “Hot Bed” for Lacrosse, and think it is the ticket to Ivy League or big-time college sports. Often a great deal of pressure is placed on coaches as to why the team didn’t win an important game, tournament, why their child did not start, and even why their star athlete didn’t get enough playing time. Trust me, even I have asked my son’s coaches these questions at times.

Doug Schanars has coached my son since he first started playing organized lacrosse. I’m a football guy, and really enjoyed Lacrosse in High School, but it wasn’t my sport. Doug recruited me to coach our town youth team and we became good friends. Our boys are like brothers, and really have enjoyed their time playing many sports together and being great friends, even though they go to different schools.

Our boys both wanted to play for a travel team, and Doug thought it would be good for them to work with other coaches. We signed them up for a very competitive travel program with a great reputation, and they both made the team. The first year was a challenge, the coach wasn’t doing well relating to the boys, and Doug has a tremendous reputation as a teacher, and Lacrosse coach, so they asked him to take over. Remember, the idea was to have someone else coach his son, but he agreed.

The team did very well since he took over, but there were many bumps along the way.  People threatened to get him fired for not playing their son, disagreements with parents over playing time, and even a few coaching changes over the years because of disagreements. It is sad, because friendships have ended over some of these situations.  The one constant that remained, was Doug taught the boys how to be the best they could, enjoy the game, work as a team, and because of that, the team won many tournaments. 

The last two years has become all about recruiting. 90% of the boys on the team want to play at the next level, whether it be Junior College, or Division 1, 2 or 3. The last two years became less about winning or losing, and more about getting the boys in front of college coaches.  In normal times, most of the boys would have found a home by now, but like everything else, COVID19 isn’t normal times.

Doug along with his other coaches have worked to get the boys into safe situations to play against good local teams, with video cameras rolling, and getting in touch with college coaches for the boys.  Several have already committed to great schools, and many more are in the process. We were chatting the other day about how proud he is to see the boys who stuck through all the ups and downs, worked hard to get better, are now seeing it all pay off.  Many of us, including me, may not have agreed with the playing time, the short leash that he had with the boys on when they made mistakes. But in these challenging times, it is great to see all the work that people like Doug put into this whole process for the boys, simply for the satisfaction that they got into a program that they wanted to go to. For this and so many more reasons, I have nominated Doug as a model citizen for the September issue of Model Citizens Magazine. 

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