Frumpy Middle-Aged Mom: No place for coaches who berate youngsters
By Marla Jo Fisher
There’s a malady going around, and I know people who’ve come down hard with it.
I’ve named this disease Coachmouth, and it’s mostly contracted by strutting would-be Napoleons of all shapes and sizes.
Sufferers can easily be identified by the whistles around their necks, tube socks on their feet and delusional beliefs that they can say anything they want, just because someone calls them “coach.”
That’s right, they can utter any bleeping thing that comes into their heads to their players, anytime, anywhere.
In their case, though, they don’t bleep the expletives, they just let them fly into the ozone, where they’re probably contributing to global warming right now.
I confess that I can’t get terribly riled about the cussing. If you’ve ever been on a high-school campus for more than 18 seconds, you’ve already heard an entire litany of curse words, uttered in every language under the sun.
More concerning to me are the coaches who routinely berate their players like guards quelling an inmate riot at San Quentin, instead of leaders entrusted with teaching young people about the nobility of sport.
If a student talked to another student like that, he’d be sitting in the principal’s office for bullying. But when it’s a coach, that’s fine.
In fact, some will tell you that it’s necessary to inspire excellence in their players.
Really? That’s what it takes?
Then let’s get the AP English teacher a slang dictionary, so she can curse creatively.
If the marching band director starts cussing out the tubas, maybe they’ll be invited to the Rose Parade.
The debate adviser should let a few f-bombs fly before the next meet, methinks, to motivate the team.
It’s one thing for an NFL coach to say anything he wants. That’s big business. It’s something else entirely for a youth coach to demean, embarrass or bully impressionable youngsters.
Now, most coaches are well-meaning people who aren’t abusive and who take their responsibilities seriously.
Unfortunately, there are also those who seem to think that screaming and abuse will improve their teams.
I disagree. As any parent knows, a little pants-kicking from time to time can motivate kids. But experts say that creating a climate of fear, where players are afraid to make mistakes for fear of punishment, only weakens performance.
The Positive Coaching Alliance, an organization founded at Stanford University in 1998, is devoted to teaching coaches how to motivate their players without fear or shame. They want to develop what they call double-goal coaches, who want to win but also to teach life lessons through sports.
I wish my kids’ school were among those that require coaches to take their online video training course, with people like Phil Jackson as speakers. I’ve heard his teams have done pretty well.
Call me demented, but in high school athletics, the key word to me is “school.”
I don’t like it when my son is hollered at for missing practice because he went to tutoring for algebra.
One reader told me her swimmer daughter was harassed for leaving practice early because she had a debate meet. Another mom told me her son’s coach kicked him off the baseball team after he complained about urine bombs in his locker.
And then there’s the misogyny.
My sportswriter friend Scott Reid told me he hates hearing coaches berate their male players by implying they’re females.
Typical inspirational phrases: “Why don’t you just put on a skirt?” “What are you — a girl?”
Scott said he’d like to hear one of those coaches mouthing off in front of tennis star Serena Williams.
She probably wouldn’t like it. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to make Serena Williams mad.
Right now, friends of mine are arguing about whether their son should join a championship team where the coach is known for screaming misogynistic abuse at the kids.
The husband thinks it’s no big deal. His wife disagrees. Go figure. Women.
I also agreed with Scott that far too many coaches routinely call their players “retards” on the field.
Are you kidding me? That word should be banned on campus entirely. Instead, you hear it all the time.
There’s a simple reason that coaches get away with it: fear.
Both kids and parents are afraid that any complaints will lead to retaliation against the child — perhaps being kicked off the team, or maybe just not getting to play.
High-schoolers and their parents worry that the coach might stand in the way of a college scholarship.
Last year, my son came home from football practice and told me his coach called him a retard.
What is this coach’s job? He’s a special-ed teacher at the school. Seriously. I’m not making that up.
What did I do about it? Nothing. I’m one of those chicken parents.
I didn’t want to make waves.
And now that it’s too late, I’m sorry.