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

On December 16th Texas Tech football player Adam James was injured in practice. The next day he was diagnosed with a concussion. According to the player’s allegations and confirmed by witnesses, head coach Mike Leach then instructed his coaches to twice put James in a small dark place for hours while the team practiced. James was told that if he came out he would be kicked off the team.

For this “splendid medical treatment,” the football staff found James an electrical closet inside the football stadium to “rest” in. To make him even more comfortable, they placed an athletic staff member outside the door to make sure that he didn’t wander off in a daze and further injure himself.

Then the dog poop hit the fan.. The James family, led by Adam’s dad, former NFL player and ESPN analyst Craig James complained that their son was being mistreated: “Our son was subjected to actions and treatment not consistent with common sense rules for safety and health.” Texas Tech administrators stepped in and temporarily suspended Coach Leach and then, after further review, fired the controversial, but winningest coach in Red Raider history.

It seemed like the same thing happened at Kansas University this season with football coach Mark Mangino, ousted because of allegations of player abuse. Shortly after, Southern Florida’s coach, Jim Leavitt was canned for the very same reasons. What’s going on here?

I’ll tell you what’s going on! Players today are wimps! They’re mamby pambys. They’re soft as grapes and want their coaches to listen to their feelings and pay attention to them when they get a boo boo. They’re not interested in working hard, being tough and playing through pain like real men! At the first sign of a hang nail they’re ready to hang up their pads and limp to the training room! How is a great coach like Mike Leach supposed to win with such sorry excuses for football players on his squad! You know, you can’t make chicken salad out of chicken sh–!

Mike Leach got it right when he attacked Adam James’s real motivation for complaining to his very famous and visible dad. Leach claimed the accusations were really all about James’ discontent with his limited playing time. That’s right! Fire the winningest coach in football history because some spoiled brat wasn’t getting his PT and was sulking and pretending to be hurt! SIMPLY OUTRAGEOUS!

See, here’s the problem. There’s a conspiracy spreading across our football landscape to declaw GREAT coaches and ruin our sacred game. Over the past year there has been a greatly enhanced recognition of the dangers of concussions and the potential for long term physical damage to players. At virtually every level that the game is played on there has been serious discussion about the importance of correct treatment and diagnosis of this problem.

So what does all of this mean? Are we going to outlaw great hits? Are we going to take away the intense pleasure of being able to ring an opponent’s bell and see him wandering aimlessly and dazed towards the sidelines? Are we going to rob our young men of a chance to feel like real gladiators and punish the opponent?!

Me, I feel like we should just go back to the days when men were men and football was played without all of this silly, new protective equipment. Who needs the high tech pads, neck protection and helmets? Concussions? So you get a little knock on the noggin. Shake it off and step on up. That’s what real men do. Who cares if you have a few lingering headaches and serious aftereffects? Tough men don’t worry about all that silly stuff!

Can’t you all see that Coach Leach was really on top of this whole concept? Heck, he had young James’ safety and physical and emotional welfare in mind when he put him in that closet! He was simply using splendid judgment by placing Adam in a quiet, dark place. Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do with concussion victims. Then again, the kid was probably faking it and who would know that better than the coach!

Yup, it’s a real shame that we’re all so worried about player’s long term health issues, self-esteem and physical and mental well-being. What’s wrong with some strategic physical and emotional abuse if it helps the team win? All these silly concerns make me nostalgic for the good old days in Rome when Gladiators fought to the death.


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