Coaching HS Coach Conflict of Interest
Is it a conflict of interest for a high school head coach to also own a for profit club team, and he pressures the parents to have their son's play on his for profit club team so that their skills will be good enough to play for his high school team?
This is a question I get often, and I always say this: On the surface the answer is no. It is not a conflict of interest for a coach to run a for profit club, and also coach the high school team. And of course that coach would want his high school kids to participate on the club team as well. That is the best way to improve your kids by immersing them as much as possible in that coaches program. And he or she would of course want to ENCOURAGE (not require or pressure) the kids to play on both teams. And he would of course want all of his kids to participate. It is completely reasonable that a kid who does both will be much better prepared than a kid who doesn't. There is no substitute for practicing and playing more. Kids who do get better than kids who do not. And teams that do are better prepared than teams that don't. I sympathize with the coaches concern. And the vast majority of coaches have nothing but the best intentions for the kids.
However, the club team has to be optional. It can't be required.
The conflicts of interest come into play when kids are required to pay the "Coach" for the club team in order to play on the high school team. Or when kids who's parents that cant afford the club team or who play other sports are not allowed to play on the high school team, or are not given a fair chance to play on the high school team. This is a conflict of interest in my opinion for obvious reasons. The coach could potentially have a profit motive especially if he is truly making money (most don't make money).
Kids should never on a high school team be given preferential treatment for the amount of money the parents contribute. I have experienced this kind of gross conflict of interest personally, and it is repulsing. I actually quit coaching a team for those specific reasons where kids were playing based on the amount of money contributed.
Now, that being said, lets face facts. Even if the coach has no profit motive, It is very hard for some coaches not to naturally form some bias toward the club kids and give them preferential treatment when it comes to the high school team. This is human nature. It is very easy for that coach to have some bias on multiple levels. The club kids tend to be favorites, because they are the kids he sees the most, and his mind those kids are working the hardest. But when they are also putting money in his pocket, the possibility and perception of a conflict of interest is very real. The coach loses some credibility for sure whenever there is even a hint of a possibility that it could be profit motivated.
There are ways the coach can relieve concerns.
number one: make the finances of the club publicly available. How much money is going into the coaches pocket and how much are expenses? Most clubs lose money or break even.
Another tool to minimize the perception of a conflict of interest for that coach is for him to make it very clear, that playing on his club is not a requirement of any kind, and show that by giving all the kids an equal opportunity when the high school season starts. It is fair for the coach to say. "The kids on the club will be better prepared and probably ahead of the kids who don't play." That statement is true. But it has to be optional.
And kids who don't play club ball have to be given a fair chance. A good tool for the coach is to offer free clinics and off season practices for the kids who are not playing on the club team to help catch them up. Of course insurance is always a necessity even for a free clinic. And field space can also cost, so it may not be completely free, but you get the idea.
You also have to be realistic if you are the parent of the kids who cant afford the club, or don't have the time or who have other interests. There is a trade off. You have to understand that your kid will not be as well prepared and he or she will probably be behind as a result. That is reality. And saying that as a coach to you is not unfair or a conflict by itself. It is a fact.
Most coaches have the best intentions. They just want to teach your kids. And they want them to succeed. I praise the coaches for what they do. It is not easy. But those coaches who have businesses related to Lacrosse or any sport for that matter have to be ultra careful not to create a conflict of interest.
I hope that helps,