January 1, 2012

Teachers or tyrants?

Kevin McCarthy

So who died and appointed coaches God, especially of the Old Testament vintage? That opening sentence should set some alarm bells to ringing but, hey, if you're picturing yourself so be it. If you don't, great.

What I am specifically addressing is actually a certain approach -- where a player receives some expletive deleteds for not carrying out a task on the court as expected, be it in a game or practice, and the result is a young man retreating mentally/psychologically inward.

Such an approach is a one size fits all perversion doomed to failing our youth.

John Wooden didn't employ such tactics, nor did Dean Smith. Butler's Brad Stevens, who has done the best college coaching job bar none the past two seasons, doesn't resort to throwing tantrums. Success is actually achievable minus Bobby Knight behavior.

But even more important, why is this behavior acceptable in the sports world when such outbursts in other settings would bring negative personal and professional repercussions?

What, if anything, is different and gives coaches a pass when exhibiting this behavior?

Is it because of the setting, one where physicality and challenge within competition begs some sort of emotional outlet?

Remember, we are talking about coaching, not being out on the court and the number of birthdays for coaches don't generally place them on the cusp of adulthood.

Plus, why is this behavior much more prevalent on the male side of competition? Is it still the thinking that females are too delicate for such treatment?

The answer actually is because females, hence female coaches, are more adept with communication skills, plus the fact that going off at girls is still generally frowned upon, sexist as that is.

Another worthwhile question begging to be asked is are such coaches willing to hear expletive deleteds coming in their direction when they screw up at something?

Uh, generally not.

But then again, such one-way streeters never screw up, right?.

It's true that sometimes the approach is simply meant as a means of motivation yet think about this: does anyone really learn this way?

Yes, fear can be a motivator but it's not a learning tool.

For good reasons including a legal one, this kind of behavior doesn't appear anywhere in the best practices of business leadership.

It's an unacceptable interaction because it's actually bullying.

Plus, it's a carryover, baggage if you will, from previous unenlightened generations.

So why is it allowed in practices and games? Why do athletic directors at both the high school and college levels shun intervening?

Because coaches are the BMOC -- biggest men on campus.

And as long as they win much more than they lose, they are deemed an untouchable caste. At the college level especially, that means financial success and nobody wants to halt a gravy train.

But it will disappear with the first lawsuit filing.

Coaches aren't deities, even those sporting marvelous win-loss records and neither are they devils for lower division finishes.

Another critical factor in this equation is that coaches are ignorant of or fail to keep in mind there are different learning styles -- auditory, visual, tactile as well as those who pick up best through logical sequential, delineated lessons. The best teachers keep this in mind and adjust accordingly.

So we as a society need to evolve in stamping out this crude behavior.

The kids and young adults -- their needs should come first and no this certainly doesn't mean learning lessons in combination with a tea and crumpets party.

Any system revolving around the needs of the leader figure is simply backwards.

Let's renounce this behavioral ugliness -- it has no place in society.

To answer the opening question, we are where we are because we voluntarily promoted coaches to residence on Mt. Olympus, disregarding any exhibition of feet of clay.

It's past time we welcome them back.