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

When your son or daughter’s coach is emotionally abusive you are faced with a very difficult situation. You’re walking a political and emotional tightrope. If you do nothing, your child is at risk of having his self-esteem further traumatized and his joy of the sport killed. However, if you say or do something, you risk the coach retaliating and punishing your son or daughter even more. You also might get labeled as a pushy, over-involved parent. My feeling: Trying to keep the peace and not rocking the boat is not worth the emotional damage that your child will sustain remaining in this kind of abusive situation. I urge all parents to blow the whistle on abusive coaches. There is NEVER an excuse for adults in a position of power to demean, embarrass and humiliate our children. NEVER! This is NOT education! This is NOT coaching. It is, instead, inexcusable behavior. The following letter was sent by a father to the school’s athletic director because he was sick and tired of watching this kind of abuse heaped upon his son and his teammates.

Dear Athletic Director

For too long now there have been numerous complaints and serious concerns about the “coaching” style of Coach D. Many parents have tried to speak with him, myself included as well as school administrators. This has not worked.

Please know I have done my best over the years to support Coach D. When others were upset with him, I would offer possible reasons for the questionable things he would do. I eventually found it easier to sit away from other town people to avoid getting involved with the chatter. I have repeatedly given Coach D the benefit of the doubt only to be consistently disappointed. Please consider the following:

When a player is not able to do what Coach D asks, he
tells this player, who is a bit overweight- “Go have another cookie.”

Does Coach D think bullying kids and causing a player to cry is inspirational to that player or anyone else on the team?

Are the following rants productive or helpful in any way?

“My mother can run faster than you!”
“Can your brain process this!”
“I’m 43, I can do better!”

Two years ago when I was just trying to have a conversation with one of the basketball players on the team, I asked him, “How’s basketball going?” He responded, “I’m going to kick Coach D in the nuts.” What does this say about the team environment he’s created?

When we adults make a mistake in the course of doing our jobs, I wonder how many of us would like to be publicly humiliated. If we would not appreciate being embarrassed in front of our kids, why would we allow our kids to be embarrassed in front of us?

Coach D tells his players that they don’t respect him. What does he expect when he is rude, demeaning and disrespectful of them?

Can you think of a reason a coach would have a kid run on a sprained ankle? After my son badly sprained his ankle in a game, I went to speak with Coach D. I asked that my son not run in practice and be allowed to stay off it as much as possible because even when coming home after school, it would swell up. The entire time I was speaking with Coach D, he didn’t look at me once. The only thing he said was “Yeah, it was a bad sprain.” When I went to pick my boy up after practice, he was angrier than I had ever seen him and have never heard him speak in this way!

The first thing he said when he opened up the car door was “I hate him! Didn’t you tell him I shouldn’t be running!” It seems that Coach D had him participate in practice which included suicide drills and a lot of other running.

I have gone to other high school games. I have intentionally sat close enough to the other coaches so I could hear how they speak with their players during the game. I have not seen any other coach scream and display the same out of control behavior that is so common from Coach D. Are we all being asked to believe that Coach D is right and all the other coaches wrong?

Do you think it is appropriate that a varsity player be told by a 9 year old boy that he won’t be playing in a game? When my son missed some basketball because of a family vacation he and I discussed the possibility that he may not play in his first game back or not play in most of it. Although Coach D said nothing directly to my boy, his 9 year old son told my boy that he wouldn’t be playing in the game 10 minutes before it was to start!!!

During a basketball practice, Coach D chose to speak with my son about the possibility of him transferring to a private school. He told my boy that if he went to that particular school, he would be sitting on the bench because he was not big or strong enough to play for them. This he did in front of the entire team! At the end of this practice, one of the players told my wife what Coach D did and after explaining this to her, he said, “Coach D was inappropriate.” Another player told my boy, “Don’t listen to D, he’s just jealous of you.”

When my boy arrived home after this practice, he began to tell me about what Coach D had said. As he was talking about it, he was looking to me for an explanation. He could not understand why a coach would talk to his players that way, and say the things he did in front of the team.

At the conclusion of the West game on February 22, 2009, Coach D spoke to the team. Among the things he said to them was, “Well, none of you guys will play professionally anyway.”

Writing this letter has not been easy. I have kept these things to myself for quite some time. I am writing now because I have heard that a couple of individuals are being blamed for the discontent among the parents and others. Although they may be more vocal than most, it is unfair to blame them. They are not the problem. To scapegoat them is unjust and a misdirection of energies. None of us will be serving the school or our kids properly if we can’t be honest with ourselves.

It is not my intention to cause problems. On the contrary, I hope by going on the record, the information I provide will be helpful. Please feel free to call me with any questions or clarification.

Respectfully yours

A concerned dad

Post script: Coach D was subseqently fired.


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