Most of the time when I hear about a college coach overstepping his bounds and striking a player, I think the concern is a little overblown.
Mike Montgomery of Cal pushed his star player early in the college basketball season. Tommy Tuberville, formerly of Texas Tech, ripped a headset off one of his graduate assistants. The head coach of Virginia Tech, Frank Beamer, once got in a bit of trouble for striking a player. None of those situations were ideal for a coach and student athlete situation, but none of them were that egregious either. I saw a video this past week, however, where the coach was way over the line, and I’m sure most of you have seen the same video.
Rutgers head basketball coach, Mike Rice, was caught on video throwing basketballs at the heads and crotches of his players. He was also caught shoving, kicking and hitting his players. He yelled at them and he berated them as well. It wasn’t like someone sneaked a camera into Rutgers practices and happened to catch one or two incidents and those were the only times such behavior was exhibited by the coach; the video is loaded with this kind of behavior.
I’m sure most have already heard about or seen the Rutgers practice video and hopefully people are just as disappointed as I was.
I played a lot of sports growing up. started playing soccer when I was in the second grade. Basketball began when I was in the fifth grade and football started when I was in the sixth grade. Eventually I gave baseball a shot for a few years before I decided it was too boring and that unless I needed a nap, I didn’t need to sign up to play a sport where I stood around most of the time. I also participated in track.
I had coaches in all of those sports and I can remember each coach and what I liked about each coach and what I learned from each coach. That list of past coaches includes well over 30 people, and of those 30 people I only considered 2 of them to be bad coaches.
One of those coaches was my first football coach and he only remained my coach for a week before my dad pulled me off that team and had me put on another team. That coach wasn’t bad because he did anything to the kids, he was a bad coach because he had his favorite 11 players and the rest of us just stood on the sidelines during practices and games. The writing was on the wall; that particular coach would never teach me how to play football.
To this day I refuse to call the second guy a “coach.” If I ever crossed his path in the future, I would purposely use the prefix Mr. rather than Coach. That guy lied to his players and fought with his assistant coaches and was just a bad coach overall, but he never struck another player or crossed the line like Mike Rice at Rutgers.
Although I never had a coach who crossed the line and struck me or one of my teammates, I know what my reaction would have been if it had happened to me. I would have allowed the coach to hit me in the face with a ball. I would have allowed the coach to kick me, and I would have allowed the coach to verbally berate me. The reason I would have allowed it to happen is because the authority of these coaches is a given. The coaches are put in a place of authority by another authority. If that coach is given authority over his/her players, then in my mind I would have trusted him enough to believe that what he was doing was okay.
For instance, while I was at Boy Scout camp a few of my friends and I got in a little trouble for being out past curfew. We had been shouting things at neighboring scout camps as we were wandering down a dirt road. As we were walking back to our camp, a few of the scout leaders jumped out of the bushes and grabbed us. One of the leaders threw my 15 year-old friend to the ground and he then made my friend take off his boots. My friend was forced to walk the half mile back to camp on a rocky road, over rough trails barefoot. As my friend walked, that same leader held onto the collar of my friend’s shirt and shoved him through bushes and over rough terrain. Eventually the scout leader shoved my friend face first into a ten foot tall tree. The leader continued to push my friend against the tree until the tree bent underneath him and the leader shoved my friend over the top of the tree and then all the way to the ground.
Thinking back on those images. it makes my blood boil. The scout leader was completely in the wrong and there is no way I would allow it to stand if it happened today, but back then I thought the scout leader was justified and I never told anyone else about what had happened. My reaction to the scout leader’s actions is similar to how most kids approach the actions of their coaches.
Coaches are supposed to be leaders who help young men and young women learn how to be better people through sports. If these coaches are using violence to get their message across, what does that teach these players about life? If one of these players gets into an argument with his wife, is he going to be trained to believe that striking his wife is acceptable behavior? That verbally berating her and throwing things at her is acceptable?
I’m a firm believer in second chances, but I don’t think Mike Rice should ever be given another opportunity to lead kids again. I get that many college coaches are rather shady and unethical figures, but these kids’ futures are too important to take the risk of letting a guy like Mike Rice lead them during a very important and transitional phase of their life.
Photo Credit: Flickr
More on Babble Dad: