Heller: Zamenski situation reinforces careful communication from coaches - East Valley Tribune: VarsityXtra

Heller: Zamenski situation reinforces careful communication from coaches

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Posted: Thursday, July 22, 2010 5:59 pm | Updated: 1:32 am, Fri Jul 23, 2010.

What a mess.

An ill-timed mess, too. Fewer than six months removed from being hired by Corona del Sol, football coach Zane Zamenski is in hot water over allegations of comments said to both his players and other students on campus. And two people with knowledge of the situation said Zamenski had previously been warned by administration.

Whatever Zamenski allegedly said was repeatedly harsh or deemed offensive enough to warrant several players and their parents to go to the district with a letter.

(Worth noting: The letter was written anonymously, but the district has interviewed many kids in this investigation, and if names were attached to the letter and the district clears Zamenski, who knows what happens to those kids' places on the team).

Zamenski's current troubles are mired in allegations that go well beyond words used to motivate players. And while he, players, parents and the school wait for the district to decide - an answer which should be coming quickly - it has left Zamenski and the school in a lurch (arguably self-inflicted on both sides), a football team already adrift before practice officially begins, and reminded us of the blur between motivation, emotion and degradation.

As some of the "old school" coaches will attest, times have changed. They always will. And with every technological form of recorded sight and sound instantly available at our fingertips, every word or move can be documented.

Fair or not.

"There's three different things you come in contact with at any given moment," said Mesquite coach Mike Reardon, one of the few East Valley coaches left from a bygone era. "We're in line to try and make a young man do something he either thinks he can't do, doesn't want to do, or flat-out won't do."

Getting that extra repetition or toughness out of kids - especially in a high-charged, emotional, year-round pressure-cooker that football has become - is half the battle.

But you can win battles and still lose the proverbial war whether it's in the weight room, August practice or a crucial third down in a November playoff game.

"I don't think it's flat-out wrong because if (kids) slack or keep making mistakes they need to get jumped on," Reardon said. "It's not racial or demeaning. There's no flat answer for what's right or fair. I get after my kids and use poor language, but kids know that. Is it right or acceptable? Depends on what circle you're from, and I'm not saying the language is the best or right thing to do. But I know my kids well enough, and if I get after them it's because there's a reason for it."

Reardon played for a high school coach who was relentless - "It was always a swear word followed by my last name," he said.

Hamilton's Steve Belles played for Pat Farrell at St. Mary's, then the University of Notre Dame. Bernie Busken (Basha), Jim Ewan (Chandler) and Dan Hinds (Desert Vista) all played for the rough and tumble and maintain a certain disposition with kids because of it. Preston Jones (Perry) gets after his kids. So did Jesse Parker (big time).

None of those coaches questioned their own mentor's methods then, or, in hindsight, now. But Reardon believes this generation doesn't have the self-motivation to compete, and requires kid gloves with more eyes and ears watching every move, even if intentions are tried and true.

"The biggest thing is the kids don't care how much you know until they know how much you care," said Chaparral coach Charlie Ragle, a coach known for breathing fire on the sidelines. "If they know you can go to the end of Earth for you or they can call you on a Saturday night if there's a problem, not about football, but care about them in the rest of life, they'll hold you in the same light."

The Zamenski situation isn't solely about motivational tactics toward his players, but his mouth has him in trouble, and it no longer matters if a coach is on or off the field. Quips featuring stereotypes, generalizations, profanity, slang, race or crudeness can quickly lead to no return.

"You still always have to be in control of yourself, or you're going to have a hard time lasting as a coach," Ragle said. "It's easier said than done, we all know that."

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