Parasiliti: Shreffler's enemies won the war

April 29, 2012
  • Bob Parasiliti
Bob Parasiliti

War is hell.

Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman is credited with passing on that pearl of wisdom.

Being a general is one thing, but Sherman was never a basketball coach like Shawn Shreffler.

The concept of athletic combat probably would have made Sherman tank, even though it takes similar principles to lead an army or a team.

Both have the same ultimate goal: Victory.

Still, you’d think spending a Friday evening on the sidelines at Chambersburg Area Senior High School would be a whole lot easier than, say, dealing with the battles of Vicksburg and Bull Run.

Then again, maybe not. That’s because in basketball and war, you never know where enemies lurk.

Like a comic strip character named Pogo once said: “We’ve seen the enemy … and he is us.”

Shreffler met the enemy the other day and they wore his team’s colors.

It should have been the best of times. Shreffler just completed his 15th season by successfully leading Chambersburg’s basketball team to the rugged Pennsylvania state tournament. The Trojans survived the preseason loss of their leading scorer to become a group of overachievers that won the District 3 Class AAAA title.

Instead, it was the worst of times. On Wednesday, Shreffler lost his coaching job.

He was drummed out of the coaching corps.

If this were the tale of a city, this story should scare the Dickens out of any coach.

The charges against Shreffler are sketchy at best. Only a chosen few really know what warranted the firing of a coach who should have been celebrated for his brilliant work.

To those few, Shreffler’s future was reason for a hasty addition to the school board agenda and necessitated three shoddily executed executive sessions to choreograph the votes needed to eliminate him.

The move was made against the wishes of the vast majority, which attended the meeting to speak in support of Shreffler.

Usually, these kinds of decisions are preconceived, coerced or a form of CYA — cover your administration.

Where this one falls is unknown.

This decision is cloaked in a shroud of politics, privileged information, backroom accusations, legalese and — quite possibly — vendettas, all of which are being withheld.

Only two possible reasons have been made public: 1. Good players chose to play in a rec league because they didn’t want to play for Shreffler; 2. Shreffler is accused of using profanity and playing “mind games” with his players.

There is a misconception when it comes to high school athletics. It isn’t a youth league wonderland where everyone gets equal playing time.

It is an extracurricular activity, but it also is an extension of the classroom and an introduction to life.

The lessons learned — like determination, focus and discipline — are also useful educational tools needed in any course of study.

Add competition to that list — the drive to lead and succeed; the ability to take directions and make decisions and changes in a split second. Athletics provide important guidelines to handle success and failure along with the accompanying praise and criticism.

They are all required qualities needed in adulthood.

All that may explain why “good players” choose rec leagues over playing for coaches like Shreffler. They aren’t equipped with any of those qualities.

Complaining is their way of covering their administration.

Playground wonders think their game is perfect. They don’t want advice, structure or teammates because they are too good to be tamed.

Because of that, they are satisfied being urban legends. Instant gratification is better than long-term goals.

Meanwhile, most people know the other name for coaching “mind games.”

It’s called “motivation.”

Language, yelling and making public examples may not be kind, but they can grab and sharpen the attention of confused athletes whose emotions swing on their performance.

It’s not a matter of what you say, it’s how you say it.

It’s hard to imagine the coaching styles in the days of Paul “Bear” Bryant and Bobby Knight — or even in the present eras of Nick Saban and Mike Krzyzewski — would ever be confused with the lessons of Emily Post or Miss Manners.

For that matter, do you really think Pat Summitt or Geno Auriemma, two of the most successful women’s coaches, elevated their programs by saying “please” and “thank you” to the players who “choose” to play for them?

In competition — be it athletic or in the real world — there are glorious jobs and dirty ones. Some players are stars, others assume bit parts or make cameo appearances.

It’s called the cream of the crop. Some rise, others hover because of the separation of experience and ability. That’s why everyone can play youth sports and only a few compete professionally.

Success comes from embracing disappointment and finding something that suits your talents.

The day comes when each of us have to fight our own battles instead of relying on a parent who may be embarrassed, or feel THEIR time has been wasted, by their child’s lack of playing time.

Sherman was right. War is hell.

Competition is a form of warfare. You play to the death (of a clock or a limited number of chances). You play to win. You play to be successful. But you play as much for fun as you do for honor.

That’s part of the war Shreffler fought every season. This lack of support just proves why it’s hell.

Bob Parasiliti is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-791-7358 or by email at

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