Some youth coaches suck

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Not sure why some coaches need to play mind games with young athletes. But some do, trying to create doubt or to diminish confidence in another team’s players. At the youth level, these coaches should be dismissed for their disgusting behavior.

My daughter faced a coach like this during a middle school regional volleyball tournament this afternoon. In a first-round game, my daughter served out 23 of the team’s 50 points, drilling nine aces and giving our team an 11-1 lead in the second game. The girl can drive them over the net.

Afterward, another local coach approached my daughter, saying her technique was wrong and that some of her serves were kept in play because the other team inadvertently hit them. Most serves flew low and hard, preventing the other team from returning them. Fans just shook their heads, laughing and grinning and admiring them. Were a few serves close to the line? Sure. But that’s the case with any good server. Were some inadvertently saved. Yes, but playing passively hurts, too, allowing serves to land in without a return. That’s volleyball.

So why did the coach bring this up? Simple. She may face my daughter’s team in a later round. So she tried to plant a seed of doubt, hoping this player will think and not react.

Clearly, these serves got under the coach’s skin. Instead of developing schemes to counter them, the coach tried to play with a young girl’s psyche, snidely saying, “You know many of those serves would have gone out.” Actually, my daughter did not realize this, knowing full well she drilled her serves and helped her team kick some behind. My daughter  blew it off, unable to recall the coach’s comments. I found out only because my wife heard the conversation.

I’ve spoken with more than a thousand coaches through the years, a great majority of whom are terrific teachers, nurturing a love of the game and instilling discipline along the way. Most coaches go out of their way to congratulate a great performance, appreciating the effort and skill.

But not this coach. Shame on any coach or parent who acts in this manner. If we as sports writers capture these disgusting moments, we need to report them – the same way we should describe coaches shaking hands with an opposing player who just turned in an exceptional performance.

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2 Responses to “Some youth coaches suck”

  1. Kevin Says:

    That’s terrible. Unfortunately it seems to happen everywhere.

    When I took the sports writing job I have now, the first week I ran into a coach like this. He thought the other team purposely forfeited a game to save his pitcher’s arm for the next day, when they played eachother. He got so upset that he almost got into a fist fight with the other coach (in front of all the kids) and then yelled “your kids better be wearing their helmets tomorrow,” insinuating he was going to get into a beaning war. These were 12-year-old baseball players!

    I really wish youth leagues would have higher standards for coaches. I feel like they just take anyone who wants the job, regardless of their ability to teach the game and sportsmanship.

  2. Charbel Says:

    It is a shame that some youth coaches resort to mind games. I learned from a teammate in college — and I now teach this to my student-athletes — that a true competitor is someone who wants to compete against an opponent who’s at the top of their game, bringing the best they have. That way you get to raise your game and bring your best for a top-notch, fun, and exciting competition. It’s not appropriate for a youth coach to psych out an opposing team’s players.

    @Kevin One thing I’ve noticed is that it’s very difficult to find the unique combination of a coach with the knowledge, patience, and intrinsic ability to connect with young student-athletes. I certainly don’t claim to be the perfect role model for a coach, but I try my best and learn from my mistakes.

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