Coaches Need to Be Held to a Higher Standard
By Ken Reed
University of Hawaii football coach Todd Graham resigned Friday night following numerous abuse allegations from players.
A report that came to light a little over a month ago said current and former players claim the coach verbally assaulted and demeaned them regularly during his two-year run as Hawaii’s head coach.
“I would go as far to say it’s verbal abuse the way he talks to guys … It’s personal,” said one player. “It’s not like, ‘Oh, you need to be faster.’ He’s calling guys useless, jackass and a sack of s***.”’
Graham is the latest in a long line of abusive autocratic coaches who think they can best motivate players by verbally — and in some cases, physically — abusing players. This issue is much bigger than Todd Graham. It’s about the on-going prevalence of boorish, autocratic, “kick-‘em in the butt” style coaches in this country, especially at the college, high school and youth levels.
A lot of coaches have used methods similar to Graham’s through the years. Because of that fact, some defenders of this kind of coaching behavior take the “that’s how it’s always been; if it was good enough for me it’s good enough for today’s kids” position.
But research shows this isn’t the best way to motivate athletes.
In a study published in the International Journal of Sport Communication, negative tactics, including verbally aggressive language, were found to be less effective in motivating athletes than coaches with a more affirming style.
“This study shows that extra amounts of verbal aggression in the coach-athlete relationship is a negative thing — it’s not productive, and many athletes find it to be unacceptable,” says Joseph P. Mazer, the lead author of a report on the research.
The key finding from the study is that verbally aggressive language doesn’t work as a motivator, even in sports environments where athletes have been conditioned to expect it. Players said coaches who used profanity and other berating language went too far and were de-motivating.
“Coaches are psychologically frozen,” explains Jim Thompson, founder of the Positive Coaching Alliance. “They tend to coach the way they were coached and by the professional coaches they see on TV.”
Well, it is time coaches evolve as human beings and leaders of young people.
There’s no place for coaching styles like Graham’s. It’s time to hold our sports coaches to a higher, more “grown up” standard of behavior.
Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
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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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