In Becoming a Champion, Coaching: Good/Bad/Unfair

When I was a freshman in college, the athletic department wouldn’t let me play varsity sports. They had a rule for all incoming freshmen! Apparently they wanted new students to have the time to properly acclimate to the college environment and course load before they took on the extra added pressure and commitment of varsity athletics. Within this rule, which has since gone the way of the dinosaurs, was an implicit understanding that the primary purpose of going to college was to get an education and not just to play your sport. A truly interesting concept when you think of it!

Nowadays most Division I colleges and their athletic departments (along with quite a few D2 & D3 programs) have come to their senses and have their priorities straight. They understand that sports is the most important thing for a college “student-athlete” and as a result, they don’t allow silly things like academic classwork and requirements to interfere with and distract their student-athletes from the important task at hand: Being the best athlete that you can be.

Towards this end, schools pay obscene amounts of money to field the winningest coaches and offer them salaries that are exponentially greater than any tenured professor. The priority here is crystal clear: Basketball and football coaches are more valuable to the “educational” process at our universities than are the professors. Years of “eligibility” becomes an even more important factor than a student’s GPA. With this, we now have interesting categories of athletes called “true” freshmen or “red shirt” freshmen as opposed to just plain old-fashioned freshmen.

Everyone seems to pay lip service to the importance of getting an education when you go off to college. There is a pretense that yes, the college degree is important. However, when push comes to shove, and all of the years of eligibility are in the rear view mirror, the actual graduation rate in a large number of these basketball and football programs is embarrassingly low.

This is why it’s always so refreshing to find college coaches who not only have their priorities straight about what’s really important, but aren’t afraid to call it like it is. Take, for example, Coach “B”:

He’s the head baseball coach for a small D-2 program. Two years ago, six of his freshmen approached him about an academic conflict that was coming up right before the team headed south for their annual spring trip. It seems that a math review was being held the night before the team left, starting during the last half hour of practice. The review was to prepare all of the students for the big final which would comprise 60% of the students’ grade.

When Mike, the spokesperson for the six freshmen and a talented pitcher presented their dilemma to Coach “B”, the man stared at Mike in stone-faced disbelief. Then he finally started yelling at him, “I don’t know what the F’en problem is here! I never had to take an “F’en math review so why should you?! What a crock of #@!*$@*” CRAP! You guys have a lot of nerve! You all better think long and hard about taking this time off from my F’en practice!

A few days later when they told him that they would have to leave for the review, he again went off on all of them, intimidating 4 of the freshmen to bag the review and stay for the last half hour of practice. Mike and one other kid however, picked up their equipment and went to the math review.

From that point on, Mike and his teammate never saw another moment of playing time. The coach refused to pitch him regardless of the game or how much the team was winning by. On top of that, Coach “B” stopped talking to both guys, as if they were invisible. By junior year Mike was so depressed and dejected that he quit the game altogether.

Let’s hear it for Coach “B!” He does the world of college coaching proud by courageously not putting up with this kind of insolence and disrespect for the game! BRAVO “B”!


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