Mental Health

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Let’s Forge a New Path

Published: 2020-10-28
Let’s Forge a New Path
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SportsEdTV offers many great videos and resources on coaching the technical aspects of many sports. This space will get you thinking about other aspects of coaching such as your “why” and also the “how” of coaching. This space will promote the idea of coaching a different way than perhaps you were coached: the transformational coach.

In the United States, we have seen a transition in coaching where openly abusive coaching is far less tolerated. Those of us who are of a certain age can remember legendary coaches such as Bear Bryant and Woody Hayes (American college football) and Bob Knight (college basketball). All were legendary as winning coaches, but also legendary for many practices that were abusive. Bear Bryant while coaching at Texas A&M held legendary practices in the Texas summer where players are pushed to exhaustion, denied water, and punished with additional running for poor performance. Woody Hayes was verbally abusive to his own players and infamously once punched an opposing player in the throat during a game. Bob Knight had numerous instances of bad behavior toward his own players along with assaulting a Puerto Rican police officer and throwing a chair onto the court during a game after a bad call.

One common trait they all had was a militaristic view of the coach as a general commanding his troops and expecting them to follow his orders without hesitation. Hayes and Knight (whose nickname was “The General”) were military history buffs who grew up in a time where people did tend to follow the orders of their superiors without question.

However, beginning(many believe) with video surfacing of former Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice abusing his players physically (throwing basketballs at them) and verbally (calling them demeaning names), there was a turn. Rice was fired for those behaviors. The cynic could say that if he had had a winning record maybe the university would have let it slide or handled it “internally”. Maybe the video was what pushed it over the top. Regardless he was fired for what likely was occurring in gyms all across America at all levels.

The United States is not alone in these sorts of behaviors. The former Soviet bloc countries had notorious abusive programs as well. Again, in a system where obedience is expected these can go unquestioned. Also, it is not just white male coaches in the US who have lost their jobs over abusive practices.

Often people would point to the success coaches such as Knight, Hayes and Bryant had and also the support of many players for them and often expressions of love and see that as justification. However, in the past couple of decades we have seen coaches successfully take different approaches and be successful. High profile and championship winning coaches such as Pete Carroll (American professional and college football), Steve Kerr and Gregg Popovich (professional basketball) who seek to connect with their players on a personal level, learn what motivates them, and seek their input.

These are not “soft” coaches. They set high expectations but involve the players in the decision-making process. They hold players accountable as well. Let’s emulate these coaches and others like them who are being positive influences on the athletes they coach through a more transformational coaching approach versus a dictatorial one.

The next blog entry will be about your coaching philosophy. If you do not have a clear AND written coaching philosophy, the blog will provide a guide for developing one. If you do already have one, come back and see if the philosophy still fits. It is not unusual to adjust your coaching philosophy as you mature as a coach.