May 30 (Bloomberg) -- The coach called one player a “f*****g retard” in front of his teammates. He told others that they shouldn’t enjoy themselves after a game because they played like, well, a compound obscenity sometimes used as a derogatory term for the female anatomy.
In the coach’s attempt to motivate his boys during one halftime, he gathered them around him and told them that they were playing as though they were (pardon the shock value) undertaking a sexual act with, yes, their own grandmothers. It seems kind of small by comparison, but he also threw clipboards and kicked equipment, insulted the players’ families, cursed out coaches and referees, and humiliated and berated and singled out several players to the point of tears.
No, this isn’t Rutgers University or the latest collegiate scandal. This is a volunteer father coaching my son’s grade-school lacrosse team in my New Jersey hometown.
Why are we still allowing this?
The above story isn’t unique. We’ve all seen these guys on the sidelines. We parents may not condone it, but we’ve learned to accept it. We put up with this behavior because we worry that if we question it, there will be repercussions for our kid. He’ll get less playing time, we fear. She will be moved down from the A to the B team. He will be the brunt of even more abuse. We see our choices as putting up with it or denying our kid the sports experience. We start to justify it in our minds. “Hey,” we tell ourselves, “this is how Woody Hayes coached. The guy really knows the game. Maybe it’s a good thing.”
I, too, was guilty of thinking like this.
But we know better. And it has to stop.
Maybe the screaming and shouting worked for another generation. It doesn’t work now. And even if it did, even if your sixth-grade program ended up with a record of 11-2 with abuse when it would have been 9-4 without (and the evidence strongly suggests that the opposite is true), so what?
New Jersey has just adopted some of the toughest anti-bullying legislation to which our own children are accountable. Shouldn’t we demand the same from our coaches? Could you ever imagine a schoolteacher or debate coach behaving in such a manner?
What I’ve noticed -- and yes, this is anecdotal -- is that the best teams with the best coaches seem to be have the calmest sidelines. Rather than shouting specific instructions at players -- and chastising them for every mistake -- these coaches have already taught their players what to do. They trust these kids to take responsibility. Sure, the kids mess up, but there is a lot to be said for playing without fear. They play better, learn to be instinctive, and -- gasp -- have more fun.
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