I've seen it often - a coach appears to be a real jerk, and the players love him and explain, that is just coach being coach.
A lot of interest - articles and inquiries - exist as to what is the most important ingredient to effective sports coaching. Here is one that is at the top of my list, and it is the reason "jerk coaches" may be respected sports coaches. Of course, this article is not to imply there is a place in sports for jerks or abusive coaching, just meant to understand this perplexing situation.
It is always mind boggling to hear some players and/or parents praise the jerk coach, even those who displays abusive physical or mental behavior towards athletes. One such incident that comes to mind is the abusive situation at Rutgers University, where unbelievably, some people spoke up positively for the abusive coach. There seems to be a story a day on this abusive sports coach phenomena and to reiterate, some people fully back the coach. How can that be?
The reason is simple, in a sense. Even sports coaches, who act like complete jerks and display behavior that is unacceptable in today's sports culture, have one of the most important ingredients for sports coaching. This ingredient that all good sports coaches display is the ability to show that they care that players improve. It is important to note the wording of the above statement the ability to show that they care is different from just caring. Most sports coaches care to some degree, or at least believe that they care, but many do not know how to show others that they care. That may seem to odd to many, that coaches, who go about coaching the wrong way, care, but that is often the case and is why they coach.
Of course, many coaches have other agendas, as just helping their own son or daughter, or of just helping some players, or winning is more important to them than player development. Other coaches, with good intentions, just do not have the coaching techniques or personalities to display this caring attitude.These type coaches may be the nicest, most patient coaches around, but without the ability to show they want to help players, they never gain full respect of the team, or their parents.
The reason coaches can be jerks, and get away with what is unacceptable words and actions, is that the players honestly believe the "jerk coach" cares that they improve and cares that they reach their potential, no matter that their methods appear "jerky" to outsiders.
The famous and winning coach that most comes to mind is basketball coach Bobby Knight, who displayed this somewhat abusive, old-school attitude, if you will. From what I have read over the years, a majority of players and their parents, accepted Coach Knight's behavior because they knew he cared they improved, and they respected him for that, even though his coaching methods may not have been respected.
The one thing that coaches owe players is truly wanting to help them reach their athletic potential. Many people will immediately say that making sports fun is the most important thing. However, just having fun, without the caring and player development, is a party, not sport. Kids, who have little or no interest in a sport, do not have fun, even with the best coach in the world. The good news is that a good part of having fun for kids is the recognition that the coach cares they improve, even if the coach has jerk methods. Adults should not take the fun out of sport and the best coaches combine showing they care, player development, and fun into sports coaching.
Of course, great coaches also care for athletes' development away from the sport, too, and have the ability to show that also. The coaches, who show they care for people on and off the field, no matter their methods, are usually the ones that people come to their aide, even when the coach's abusive behavior becomes public knowledge.Coaches, who show they care that players become their best, and help set them on the path to reach their sport and life potential, gain respect and are effective sports coaches, even the jerks.
After all that and as mentioned, there is no place for abusive behavior of any kind in sport, school, homes, or wherever. Coaches, who display abusive or borderline abusive behavior, of any kind, must change or get out of sports coaching.
After playing major league baseball, Jack Perconte has taught baseball and softball since 1988 and offered valuable coaching training too. He has helped numerous youth players reach their potential, as well as having helped parents and coaches navigate their way through the challenging world of youth sports. Jack is one of the leading authorities in the areas of youth baseball training and coaching training advice.All Jack Perconte articles are used with copyright permission.
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