In Coaching: Good/Bad/Unfair, Gender and Sports

I have two daughters. Both played competitive sports. My hope for them when they were younger and now as young women, is that they be strong, self-assured individuals in the world who carry the belief that they can do ANYTHING that they set their mind to. And, most important, that they have the self-respect and courage to speak up, take care of themselves and not allow themselves to be abused in any situation.

What is particularly disturbing to me about coach abuse is the insidious message it communicates to girls and young women. Whether it’s a male or female coach working with females, the message is the same: “I have the power over you, I can say and do anything I want, and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about this!”

Abusive coaches use threats, FEAR and intimidation to scare athletes into submission. They BULLY their athletes into keeping silent OR ELSE, (incurring my wrath, loss of playing time or athletic scholarship, etc!) They destroy an individual’s self-esteem and seriously undermine their confidence. They teach their athletes to be passive and tolerate abusive behavior in relationships. This is a particularly insidious and disturbing lesson to teach anyone, especially young women! And I have an even harder time when you have a female coach, reinforcing these “lessons” in young female athletes.

There are far too many examples of this shameful behavior going on, continually reinforced by athletic directors and school administrations who do nothing to protect our children and in this neglect, collude with the abusers. Recent examples in women’s college basketball are Holy Cross and Georgetown, where public pressure and media attention finally forced out these long time abuser coaches.

We must teach our daughters how to grow up and be strong women in the world and to have self-respect by MODELING a ZERO TOLERANCE policy for this kind of abuse against girls/women. If you suspect that this kind of behavior is going on, protect your children, speak up, make waves and communicate that this behavior needs to stop immediately! If the coach is unresponsive, go to the AD. If the AD does nothing, go to the principal or college president. If still nothing happens, then get a lawyer and go to the media.

A coach doesn’t EVER need to be abusive and demeaning to prepare athletes to perform at the highest level! Instead, this behavior undermines mental toughness and makes athletes vulnerable to poor performance and repetitive performance problem


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