Over the years it has become increasingly apparent to me that we have a HUGE problem in our youth sports culture. It would be natural to assume this problem is with parents that have unrealistic expectations for their kids that lead to the over involvement it tends to breed. However, I have come to realize there is a much bigger problem sparking outrage that needs to be addressed.
This problem is the lack of COACHING SKILLS LEADING TO POSITIVE ATHLETE EXPERIENCES!
Everyday, young athletes and families invest big chunks of time, energy, money, and maybe most importantly, HOPE in the sport they play. Their hope is that they will have a positive experience comprised of bonding with their teammates, skill mastery and the possibility of another adult mentor giving them another voice of truth.
What do many of athletes find when they show up? Many are met with negativity, verbal abuse, a lack of communication, and significant confusion to name a few. This leads to many becoming discouraged, beaten down, and quite frankly hurt beyond our awareness.
Because of this I feel compelled to write…
In a time where we are writing legislation to put an end to bullying, I wonder why we have been so silent when it comes to how our kids are treated by many coaches? Are we that afraid of the possible back lash that we allow this to happen without outrage and up-rise?
Now, I am aware not all coaches treat athletes in this manner however, I believe many coaches utilize screaming, verbal abuse, and mind games along with emotional manipulation in an attempt to motivate and get kids to behave in a certain way. For instance, just last week I witnessed a coach scream at a 9th grade basketball team while on the bench. For what? They made a bad pass? Missed a shot? Were in the wrong place?
Does this justify such abusive behavior?
What about an athlete that shows up to practice and exhibits low levels of energy, engagement and execution? Does this give license for a coach to “go off” on a kid? Do many think to themselves… “they had it coming because they are lazy, disinterested and distracted”? To get the kids going the coach had to do something.
If we believe that these are acceptable reasons for a coach to verbally assault our kids we need to truly think twice about the price tag of this. OUR KIDS ARE BEING EMOTIONALLY DESTROYED! What is worse, is that our kids are often blamed for the verbal assaults, manipulation and confusion. We have set our kids up as the source of our coaches happiness through their athletic performance play. Many kids believe that their coaches are more invested themselves than the team itself.
It is time that we RISE UP and quit tolerating these often utilized coaching strategies. Yelling, intimidating and verbal abuse of our kids is not okay! I do not care what level of laziness, distractibility or lack of execution is occurring. This type of coaching behavior is unacceptable . If this type of behavior happened in any other environment (schools, for instance) the bully would be suspended and often times expelled. Yet, this bullying takes place daily in gyms, rinks, and on fields all over the country with little to no consequence to the bully.
From where I sit the spirit of our young athletes is being destroyed.
What is worse is that the kid truly has no recourse. Day after day they go to practice and games and experience this type of coaching with little to no protection around them. What is a kid in this situation to do? Should they go talk to the coach and say; “I will not put up with this type of treatment!”? Doing so in many cases will be seen as a lack of respect and most likely will result in punishment to themselves and the team.
It is important that we have a no tolerance policy for coaches that utilize intimidating, manipulative, verbally abusive, and poor skills in coaching. Our kids are hungry for a positive experience and deserve to be coached by skilled coaches that know how to get the most out of them while they cultivate a safe and positive environment.
I am passionate about championing positive experiences for our young athletes. This happens when parents, coaches, youth boards, and communities quit tolerating unacceptable behavior and start prioritizing training, skill development and accountability for those that have the privilege of shaping and influencing our young people.
In my next blog I will lay out a plan for how coaches can generate quality experiences for kids while they are able to challenge them to be at their best.
Until next time, lets join together in doing something to STOP THE BULLYING.