In Coaching: Good/Bad/Unfair, Problems in Youth Sports

Athletic competitions can and do bring out the BEST and the WORST in us! Coaches, players, their parents and fans have been known to regularly lose their cognitive faculties, maturity and judgment, regressing to emotion-driven infants during and after a highly charged contest. Almost all of this bad behavior is fueled by the need to win, which in our society we have elevated to a dangerous level of importance. Why do junior tennis players and golfers blatantly cheat while their parents may sit on the sidelines with their mouths shut? Because WINNING is what’s important here, NOT how you play the game. Why did Lance Armstrong dope and vehemently lie about it for years, as he continues to do today? Because WINNING is where it’s at, not abiding by the rules of the game. Why did Barry Bonds, Mark McGuire, Sammy Sosa, A-Rod, Roger Clemens and countless other Major Leaguers juice? Because WINNING gets you the fat contract, not being a role model of honesty, integrity and good sportsmanship.

The need to win, to beat your opponent, to earn that college scholarship or make the varsity has become so terribly blown out of proportion, that the adults involved in competitive sports, the coaches, administrators and parents (let’s not forget the fans as well) regularly get emotionally hijacked. When we get emotionally caught up in the win/lose outcome of a game, we tend to lose sight of what’s REALLY important here. We forget that the game is for and about the kids. We lose sight of the fact that competitive sports are supposed to teach young, developing human beings good character, discipline, integrity, good sportsmanship, fair play, etc. We adults forget that our MAIN job is to conduct ourselves as appropriate role models and insure that the game is kept in the proper perspective. It is our job to make sure that we don’t approach a competitive game blinded by the short sightedness of winning, and instead, keep the more important lessons that we’re supposed to be teaching in mind!

The problems always come about when we allow our emotions to take over! There’s no question that competitive sports are emotionally compelling. It is so easy to get caught up in the pressure and drama of the moment. Unfortunately, when we allow our emotions to steer our ship, we will inevitably end up in pieces on the rocks every time! When we let our emotions drive our behaviors, we tend to lose our brain cells, saying and doing WICKED STUPID things! Case in point:

Last week in my hometown, Amherst Massachusetts, Eric Wheeler, the assistant high school basketball coach for the Amherst Hurricanes was fired (rightly so!) after he “coached” one of his players to deliberately commit a physical assualt on the opposing team’s head coach during the game. Why? Because the South Hadley coach, Jeff Guiel continued to violate the rules of the game by roaming outside of the coaching box to coach his players during the flow of the game. Being outside of the coaching box is a minor infraction in the game, but last I checked, it’s one that the refs are supposed to handle, not the opposing coaches! The Amherst High head coach had already had a heated exchange with Guiel during the game because of this.

Assistant coach Wheeler said that he was frustrated that the refs hadn’t penalized Guiel for his actions, so he decided to take things into his own hands! He claimed that by getting one of his players to run into Guiel, they could get the refs to finally pay attention to the South Hadley coach’s transgressions! When we allow our emotions to run our behavior we say and do REALLY STUPID things! You can be sure that coach Wheeler’s actions, having one of his players assualt the opposing team’s coach, was not troubled by deep waves of thought! It was instead driven by emotions that stemmed from this over focus on winning!

When will we finally wake up here? IT’S NOT SUPPOSED TO BE ABOUT THE WINNING! It’s supposed to be about teaching the pursuit of excellence and the value of hard, honest work!


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