By Ken Reed
Where else in society do we allow more screaming, belittling, demeaning and abusive “leaders” than in the field of sports coaching?
“I can’t think of another place in society where we so willingly give people dispensation from what is socially and morally acceptable,” writes Timothy R. Clark, an Oxford-educated former college football player at BYU, in an op-ed for the Deseret News.
The reason Clark can’t think of another place is because there isn’t one. It’s a bizarre socio-cultural situation in our country. It’s even harder to fathom when you realize that in a lot of cases — across multiple sports — we willingly let these crazed yellers coach our little leaguers, kids seven-to-12 years old.
Coaches are supposed to be teachers but if our classroom teachers acted like a significant percentage of our youth sports coaches they’d be banned from ever setting foot in a classroom again.
“We often give our coaches — at least this has been the historical pattern — permission to mislead,” writes Clark.
“We’re so used to the traditional ‘tell-yell’ model of coaching in America that it often doesn’t register with us when a coach is behaving badly…. More than we’d like to admit, we witness coaching behavior that would qualify as bullying behavior.”
Ain’t that the truth …
I call it the Lombardi Effect (see Humanistic Coaches). In the 1960’s, Vince Lombardi won several NFL and Super Bowl championships by being a bullying ogre for the Green Bay Packers. He was known for treating all his players the same way — like dogs. But he won and won big. He was glorified by the media and his style became the acceptable gold standard of coaching.
“When our “screamer” and “head gamer” coaches notch victories, when they win championships, we not only turn a blind eye, we lionize them,” writes Clark. “We build them shrines and give them treasure.”
That was wrong back in the ’60’s when Lombardi stalked the sidelines in Green Bay and it’s worse when it happens today — especially in youth sports.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #22 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Rethinking Sports Fandom with Author Craig Calcaterra – We discuss Calcaterra’s new book “Rethinking Fandom: How to Beat the Sports-Industrial Complex at Its Own Game” and explore new ways to be a fan in the year 2022.
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Episode #21 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Chatting About a Broken Game With Baseball Writer Pedro Moura – Moura is a national baseball writer for Fox Sports. We discuss how and why the game of baseball is broken, what factors caused it, and offer a few thoughts on how to “fix” a great game.
Episode #20 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Coaching Youth and High School Sports Based On What’s Best for the Athlete’s Holistic Development – We chat with long-time youth, high school and college basketball coach Jim Huber.
Episode #19 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Capturing the Spirit of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League with Anika Orrock – We discuss the hoops AAGPFL women had to jump through to play the game they loved as well as the long-term impact and legacy they have in advancing sports opportunities for girls and women.
Episode #18 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking about the 50th Anniversary of Title IX and the Lia Thomas Controversy with Nancy Hogshead-Makar – Hogshead-Makar is a triple gold medalist in swimming, a civil rights attorney and CEO of Champion Women.
Episode #17 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports With Legendary New York Times Sports Columnist Robert Lipsyte – We chat about Lipsyte’s amazing career and some of the athletes he covered.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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