By Ken Reed
For some reason, most Americans seem to believe that coaches have to be from the ‘kick ’em in the butt” authoritarian school of coaching in order to be successful. You know, the Vince Lombardi and Bobby Knight types. This despite a ton of evidence that says that simply isn’t the case. Think John Wooden, Dean Smith, Don Shula, Bill Walsh and Joe Torre. Great coaches who didn’t have to resort to degrading and dehumanizing tactics to get the best out of their players.
Watching baseball the last couple weeks, two managers have stood out, both for their teams’ successes and for their coaching styles. The Chicago Cubs’ Joe Maddon and Pearland, Texas Little League coach Andrew Solomon, are both humanistic, relationship-based coaches. And their players love them for it and play hard because of it.
“He’s so personable,” says the Cubs’ young star, Kris Bryant of Maddon.
“He’s really laid back, and he’s the type of manager that’s not hard on you. He’s not a drill sergeant. That brings out the best of you as a player. You’re not scared to make a mistake or scared to do something wrong, you’re not walking on eggshells. If you’ve got a problem, you can talk to him. He’s taught me so much already, I’m looking forward to the relationship that we have to come. In spring training, when I got sent down, he was great, and that springboarded us into talking a lot when I’m struggling and when I’m doing great. He’s really easy-going.”
Maddon has two rules: Respect 90 (play hard, epitomized by running the 90 feet to first base as hard as you can) and Have Fun.
“He keeps us loose,” says Cubs’ center fielder Dexter Fowler. “That’s basically it. He has fun. He’s the man.”
Solomon, known more for his dreadlocks than his coaching style, appears to be the perfect youth league coach. He has fun and encourages the players to have fun. He keeps his team laughing with his humor but he also is a strong motivator and is a good teacher of the fundamentals so his players can have more fun playing the game.
The Little League World Series is a pressure-packed event for 11, 12 and 13 year-olds. While it’s a great experience for the kids, the negatives sometimes outweigh the positives. But Solomon has done a nice job keeping it all in perspective for his players.
“I’m a little bit worried about the guys, but they seem to be handling it pretty well,” says Solomon. “Obviously it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience for them. This is not reality. In about a week or so, they’re going to have to return to reality.”
Playing for coaches who get it, like Maddon and Solomon, is a reality I wish more athletes — from Little Leaguers to big leaguers — could experience.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #10 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: An Issues Discussion With Paul Dolan – Dolan is the Cleveland Indians Owner and CEO. He discusses the use of Native American names and logos by sports teams and the decisions to drop the Chief Wahoo logo and the upcoming change to the team name. Other baseball topics include health and safety, possible MLB rule changes and youth participation in the sport.
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Episode #9 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports Issues With Ralph Nader – Nader is a consumer advocate and was named one of the “100 Most Influential Americans of the 20th Century” by Time magazine. He is the founder of League of Fans.
Episode #8 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Save College Sports From Overcommercialization and Professionalization? – The guest is Dr. David Ridpath, a sports business professor and past president of the Drake Group
Episode #7 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Brain Trauma and CTE Risk in Sports With Dr. Ann McKee – Dr. McKee works in the field of neuropathology and has demonstrated that “mild” repetitive head trauma can provoke chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a devastating neurodegenerative disease.
Episode #6 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Need for Quality Physical Education in Our Schools is Greater Than Ever – The guest is Clayton Ellis, one of our nation’s leading advocates for getting our young people to be more physically active.
Episode #5 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Youth Sports with Positive Coaching Alliance Founder Jim Thompson – Thompson started Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) in 1998 to help create a movement to transform the culture of youth sports from “win-at-all-costs” to a positive, character-building experience.
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.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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.
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