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 #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.” We discuss overzealous adults in youth sports, the dangers of sport specialization, youth sports entrepreneurs and the profit-at-all-costs mindset, and the growing socio-economic gap in youth sports.
Follow on Facebook: @SportsForumPodcast
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.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
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.
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.
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
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