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 #32 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Prolific Author Joe Posnanski Joins the Show – Posnanski is one of America’s best sportswriters and has twice been named the best sports columnist in America by the Associated Press Sports Editors. We chat about his new book, “Why We Love Baseball,” his new Substack newsletter called Joe Blogs, and we cover topics including how baseball treats its fans, MLB’s numerous rule changes this past season, how the sport can become more fan-friendly, the greatness of Negro Leagues champion Buck O’Neil, and much more.
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Episode #31 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Foul Ball Safety Is Still an Important Issue at Ballparks – Our guests are Jordan Skopp, founder of FoulBallSafety.com and Greg Wilkowski, a Chicago based attorney. We discuss the historical problem of foul balls injuring fans and why some teams are still hesitant to put up protective netting in some minor league and college baseball parks.
Episode #30 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The State of College Athletics with Dr. David Ridpath: Problems and Potential Solutions – Ridpath is a sports administration professor at Ohio University and a member of The Drake Group, a college sports reform think tank.
Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman. We discuss the state of college athletics today.
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
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.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
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.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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