Latrobe Legion Jethawks manager Jason Bush can point to one line-in-the-sand moment early in his coaching career that defined the way he handles issues that arise with frustrated parents.
“There were two returning players who decided they didn’t need to try out for the team and they would just show up on the day we made cuts,” Bush said. “I wasn’t going to tell these young men that they would be on the team and somebody who was coming to practice wasn’t important.”
Bush, the 12th year manager of the team located about an hour from Pittsburgh, said the reaction wasn’t pretty.
“They started screaming and hollering and squealing tires in the parking lot,” Bush said. “The dad came down swearing and screaming, and I told him, ‘When I’m done practicing, I’ll come talk to you. This is our team and you won’t disrupt our practice.’”
Looking back, it’s one of the best decisions Bush ever made.
“For the foreseeable future, everybody understood that was going to be my stance, whether right or wrong,” Bush said. “I think I gained a lot of respect from a lot of people, and nobody has tried it since.”
Bush is proud of the willingness to communicate and the open dialogue he shares with both players and parents.
“If you want to ask me a question about playing time or performance, you have to understand that I’m going to be completely honest,” Bush said. “Just because you talk to me doesn’t mean anything changes in the next 24 hours. The players make those decisions.”
And Bush makes sure he pays attention at all times.
“We chart everything at games and practice,” Bush said, adding that he also takes attendance at practice. “A guy might be hitting .350, but he’s also a liability in the field. “I try to give them as much actual, hard data as I can. It’s there for them to see, and if they want to see it or ask me a question, I’m going to give the absolute honest answer.”
That said, Bush keeps an open-door policy, talking to players and parents. It doesn’t mean he’s not open to changing his mind either.
“A player may have only had five at bats, and he’s really been working hard,” Bush said. “Maybe I do need to find another opportunity. We make mistakes too. As coaches, we can only try to make decisions that best suit our team on that particular day.”
Bush provides players and parents with guidelines that are passed out, signed and returned prior to the season. It’s part of the process that has led to his successful tenure as manager at Latrobe Legion.
“I would say to be forthright, be honest and have as much data as you can,” said Bush, who led his team to the Pennsylvania state tournament in 2013. “Be well-equipped and believe in your philosophy and your program.
“If you’re an established program, and you have a history of being successful, I think those things have a tendency to take care of themselves.”