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


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