I know of a case in which someone plays a sport which does have a national tournament, but in which all participation in the sport is on a volunteer basis. Nobody’s getting paid to coach or play. No cash prizes are at stake. Nothing like that. Anyway the person playing the sport is coached by a coach who often yells at players and makes personal comments about them to a degree such that this person has occasionally been led to tears over it.
Is this normal in sports played by adults where nothing is actually at stake?
To sidestep the question of whether it’s normal - it is a cultural thing, and it is not uncommon. Coaches at competitive levels of amateur sports, especially very successful coaches, are often quite abusive.
What you’ll hear very often is that it’s “tough love,” and that it gets the players to play hard. There’s a documentary about probably the most famous high school basketball coach in the world, and he humiliates and berates his team pretty constantly. Here’s how it gets discussed in an ESPN article about it:
I would incline to a contrary position, if this is the norm for that sport, as suggested by the statement that “the players seem to be treating this as normal and acceptable” - presumably these players are familiar with how things are done in the sport.
Fact is that in team sports players have a responsibility to their team and teammates, and if the accepted convention is that this is the type of coaching that makes the team better, then you can’t sign up but opt out of that aspect. No one is forcing anyone to join the team, and if you can’t handle the type of coaching that goes on in that sport, then you should find another sport or activity.
But again, this is only if that’s the type of coaching which is common (even if not universal) in the sport (as I believe it is in certain sports, e.g. boxing).
F-P is probably right that authoritarian assholes (my words, not his) are more prevalent in some sports than others. He uses boxing as an example, I think the General Patton types are more often found in American football, where sacrifice and submission are prized attributes.
Soccer, OTOH, finds coaches often experiencing greater success when they step back and encourage players to understand the game from their own perspective – screamers trying to micromanage games are probably successful only in a very short run.
Am I understanding you correctly, that this is a case of an adult making an adult cry within a rec league?
That strikes me as highly, highly unusual. I’m wondering why anyone would play for such a coach, unless they were hell-bent on winning a rec-league national championship in which case they probably shouldn’t be crying.
The only situation I can somewhat understand it, and even then it speaks poorly on the coach, is when a team has X players, X-1 of them are extremely good amateurs, and 1 dude just plain sucks and won’t quit.
The better solution, of course, is to take that one player aside and tell him this isn’t the team for him. But I could understand getting frustrated and yelling at captain bozo when he’s fucked up for the 7th time this practice session and the rest of the team is getting pissed.
I’m not saying this is the situation in the OP, and I’m definitely NOT saying it’s acceptable even in that situation, but it would be more understandable.