By Ken Reed
We’ve been writing about the problem of abusive coaching in sports for a long time. (See “When Will Abusive Coaches Finally Be Kicked Out of Sports?” and “Old-School Coaching Model Needs to Be Mothballed”) While the old-school Vince Lombardi/Bobby Knight coaching approach is less prevalent today it’s still a widespread problem.
Nowhere else in society, is screaming, belittling, demeaning and abusive behavior by leaders seen as normal and acceptable. And it starts at the youth sports level.
Many athletes begin to be conditioned to accept abusive behavior at a very early age in their youth sports careers. By the time they get to high school and college they are used to controlling coaches screaming in their ears after every perceived mistake. They also learn that in order to be considered “tough” they have to play hurt.
Abusive behavior goes beyond the physical to include verbal and emotional abuse. Much has been written about the mental health crisis in college athletics these days, including a rash of suicides this year. It’s an important issue. It’s also important to realize that abusive coaching can spur and exacerbate feelings of insecurity, anxiety and depression.
The University of Texas’ Abigail Hazlett, who researches intimate partner violence, said the normalization of abusive coaching contributes to abused athletes becoming abusive coaches themselves. Abuse, she says, “has lasting impacts. It actually can rewire and change your brain. When we have normalized being treated horribly or those dynamics, I think it becomes easier for us to start treating other people like that.”
And the cycle continues.
It’s a shameful stain on our society that so many abusive coaches are still active in 2022, from the youth level to the pros.
The great author James Michener, who wrote Sports in America, said coaches in the United States get away with forms of discipline that simply aren’t tolerated in any other activity.
Why are they tolerated in sports?
That’s a question that needs to be constantly asked by sports stakeholders until the abusive coaching model is extinct.
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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