By Ken Reed
As 2016 approaches, way too many athletes, at all levels — from youth leagues, to high school, to college, to the pro ranks — will go to practices today dreading the fact that they’ll once again have to deal with an abusive coach.
Too many coaches still resort to swearing and verbal abuse. A smaller group, thankfully, still doles out physical abuse. It’s the ol’ “kick ’em in the ass” approach to coaching sports. Think Vince Lombardi and Bobby Knight.
But slowly but surely, parents and athletes, of all ages, are saying enough is enough. Nowhere else in society is this type of “leadership” tolerated. It shouldn’t be tolerated in the sports world either.
In the September 28th issue of Sports Illustrated, Alexander Wolff builds a compelling case against the negative, abusive coach. He starts with the case of Simon Cvijanovic, a former football player at Illinois who documented the abuse he’d received at the hands of former Illinois football coach Tim Beckman on Twitter. Cvijanovic described how Beckman had pressured him to play with knee and shoulder injuries.
“If I’m hurt, I’m hurt,” Cvijanovic tweeted. “I don’t need to be called a pussy to make me make bad decisions for my body.”
For many coaches like Beckman, coaching with fear and intimidation is the only way they know.
“I believe this is a cultural problem,” says Ramogi Huma, executive director of the National College Players Association, which often hears from abused athletes. “A lot of coaches, they were hollered at and abused when they were players.”
And for too many players-turned-coaches the cycle continues.
According to Dr. Ben Tepper, a trained psychologist who works in Ohio State’s Fisher College of Business, “Abusive leadership is two to three times as prevalent in college sports as in the orthodox workplace.” Tepper says this is so despite the research showing that “hostility always produces diminishing returns.”
The reality is there’s a growing mound of research that shows that positive coaching techniques are more effective than traditional negative tactics.
“[I]n terms of bonding, loyalty, commitment to a team or a group and personal development over time, negativity doesn’t work as well as positivity,” says Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, a social psychologist at the University of North Carolina.
Despite the numerous examples of negative and abusive coaching that those of us involved in sports are well aware of, we actually are in a cultural shift towards more humanistic coaching styles.
The problem is we need progress to move at a faster pace than what we’re currently seeing.
It’s time for all bullies with clipboards to go.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
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, and has a long involvement with the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sport (now called the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition). We discuss the state of college athletics today, given the pressures of NIL, the transfer portal, sports gambling and huge media contracts. McMillen then provides great perspective on the poor state of physical fitness our young people are experiencing today.
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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.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
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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