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 #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.
Follow on Facebook: @SportsForumPodcast
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
Order from Amazon
Order from Amazon
Order from Amazon
Ken Reed’s Author Page on Amazon