Sports coaches as jerks

Why, especially in high schools and lower, do we tolerate sports coaches being jerks? Screaming at their students, physically assualting them, calling them names, etc.

If your child’s biology teacher did this, they would be fired right before they were charged with a crime.

So why is it okay in sports?

Bucky (now drop and give me twenty)

Beats me, but then again I’m from Bloomington, Indiana: “Home of Bobby Knight”. I keep waiting for one of his players to snap and suddenly attack him, kind of like the “Private Pyle” character in “Full Metal Jacket”…

“It’s only common sense,
There are no accidents 'round here.”

The worst part of coaching behavior is, it’s so UNNECESSARY! Dean Smith managed to win 700+ games and a few national championships, AND graduated most of his players, all without making himself or his college look bad in front of the world.

Screamers like Bill Parcells and Vince Lombardi have won NO more Super Bowls than mild-mannered Tom Flores did, and FEWER than mild-mannered Joe Gibbs did.

You don’t have to be a jerk to win! It shouldn’t be necessary to point that out, but unfortunately, it is.


Let’s not mix our apples and oranges, thanks. The OP is aout HS athletics, which is a far cr from the NFL. I give full sanction of any coach to scream at his players when they deserve it. But those fuckers are getting PAID. Big difference, no?

Yer pal,

I had one gym teacher (that’s teacher, not coach of afterschool sports) who would pick students up by their hair and by their ears. One time he also made us run laps around the gym for an entire (45 min) class period. Whenever anyone started to slow down and (god forbid) walk, they were berated and threatened with punishment if they didn’t keep up the pace. This was in elementary school. It never occured to us to complain because we were too young to know he was doing anything wrong.

To be fair, though, my middle school and high school gym teachers were pansies compared to this guy and they never did anything I’d consider inappropriate (with the possible exception of the teacher who would join in with the popular kids in making fun of the unpopular ones).
Why is it tolerated? Good question. I’m still thinking about it.

good morning friends,

i will admit that i am not the typical sports fan. i have seen the behavior described in the op many times.

my daughters, now adults played little league softball. the first year (tee-ball)was fun, and designed to be instructive. the second year the coach started to pitch to the girls. that year, my older girl drew a coach that spent a lot of time yelling at the kids, and quite often making them cry.

about mid season, i replaced him as coach due to my complaints. the man in charge of the softball program challenged me to move beyond the complaints and help make the situation better. i spent the next 15 years on the board of directors of the local league, and coaching two teams. (unfortunately, my daughter’s ages are far enough apart that they never played on the same team)

i saw many screamers in those years. i came to understand that some coaches take winning and losing games very personally, even at the expense of the kids they had playing for them.

Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity -Kahlil Gibran


Perhaps I do mix apples and oranges, but my hunch is, even a sadistic junior high school coach imagines himself to be part of a great tradition, including Vince Lombardi and Bobby Knight.

Certainly, it’s far worse for a JV high school football coach to scream in a 15 year old boy’s face, and call him a faggot in front of his friends, his parents, and his whole neighborhood than for Mike Ditka to scream obscenities at Jim Harbaugh, while questioning his manhood.

Still, do you doubt that the idiot JV coach is patterning his own behavior on “role models” like Mike Ditka?

American Youth Soccer Organization has the following primary operating rules:

  1. Open Registration

  2. Balanced Teams

  3. Everybody Plays

  4. Positive Coaching

  5. Good Sportsmanship
    It makes a difference, especially the bit about positive coaching. :slight_smile:

That’s like blaming NASCAR for people who get on the freeway and speed. Or blaming anyone who is a “role model.”

Sorry, but a mature adult should realize that Miek Ditka is not coaching the Pee Wee league, he’s coaching the NFL.

If a supposedly mature adult does NOT realize this distinction, and DOES coach his group of kids in that manner, then the blame is not on Mike Ditka, who is doing his job appropriately, but on the asshole who is not.

Let’s not make an easy excuse for these kinds of parents by blaming the people they emulate, because common sense says they’re wrong for doing the emulation in the first place.

Yer pal,

Some thoughts:

I think it’s a “guy thing”, like “are you tough enough?”, “are you man enough to take it?” “If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen”.

Coaches who use shouting as a coaching technique are coaches who were shouted at when they were in school.

It’s my impression that the girls’ tennis and volleyball teams don’t have this kind of problem.

Possibly it might also be due to the fact that “those who can–do. Those who can’t–teach.” Frustration on the part of the coach, maybe? “I shouda been a contenda, instead here I am in Podunk, USA, coaching the JV football team…”

Jealousy/envy, of the young, strong bodies with all their lives ahead of them?

Not all high school coaches are like that, too. Generally I think the tension rises as soon as there’s a lot at stake–don’t be the goat who loses the trophy this year. Also, the bigger the school, the more important athletics tend to be, because the more money at stake, and the greater the odds that a talent scout from the majors might be watching, “yeah, he graduated here, I was his coach…”

Sunday afternoon–gotta go work on my needlepoint. :slight_smile:

“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast!” - the White Queen

Where to begin.

Leave NFL coaches and possibly college coaches out of it. They are paid and are coaching people who are paid, thus making a boss/underling relationship. While I would never stand for being screamed at by my boss I view sports differently. Motivation is key. How a coach chooses to motivate and get the desired response is of their choosing on a pro level as long as it is legal.

Bobby Knight, he’s entertaining, brilliant and if you go there expecting him to be Mr. Sunshine blowing smoke up your butt then I wonder how you passed your SAT.

High School coaches and other leagues for minors are a little different. In this case we are dealing with kids but in an emotional environment. Physical abuse is pushing it if you mean physical contact. If you mean abuse by running laps, line drills or whatever of that sort that is different. It is building stamina so they can hustle at that point in the game where they were flat-footed.

I personally guarantee you I am one of the most competitive people you will ever meet. In team sports I can become extremely frustrated with a lack of effort or perceived lack of effort on my teammates part. While I don’t expect people to do something I wouldn’t do, I have a problem with people who won’t do what I will do. If you aren’t playing to win why play?
For that reason I don’t think I would ever coach High School or Little League.

Problem being there are people with my attitude towards winning that do coach. The other part of this being that in most cases you parents are worse than the coach so drop the holier than thou attitude. Parents tend to accept things that result in victory and their kid playing as long as it doesn’t cross the line.

But what is the line? It is a floating scale and that is the problem. What is acceptable in one city is not in another. What it comes down to is that a lot of High School coaches know that winning on that level could get their foot in the door at the next level. Those are the dangerous ones. The ones with an agenda. The men and women that spend their lives coaching in High School do it because they love the kids and the game.

Because high school is about breaking people, and sports is one way to do that?

Good post, Sledman. Lots of food for thought. As for your rhetorical question:

Speaking for myself, I play to have fun. That’s why I call it play.

My hope for Kayla is that she always remembers that.

Speaking for myself, I play to have fun. That’s why I call it play.

My hope for Kayla is that she always remembers that.**

Point taken and agreed with. Competition is more fun when you don’t have an inner need to win. Wish I wasn’t so competitive all the time. Competitiveness has a place and a role in life. If you aren’t competitive on some level it is tough to succeed. You just need to temper it in other areas.

Anyway I hope your daughter can play to have fun too!!

Sure, you play to have fun.

I am competitive as hell, but the difference is that I do not need to WIN, but I do need to be competitive on my own terms.

For example, when I bowled, I was never going to be confused with a prop bowler. But I did have certain standards that I held myself up to. If I did not meet them and won, I was still upset with myself. And if I exceeded them and lost, I was still pleased that I did all I could.

Maybe this is what we need to instill in our kids who play sports? That way, the only competition is within themselves, and if we are telling kids simply to do their best, this seems like a better standard than “You lost, so you must be a loser.”

Yer pal,

One week, two days, 12 hours, 10 minutes and 13 seconds.
380 cigarettes not smoked, saving $47.53.
Life saved: 1 day, 7 hours, 40 minutes.

It is most certainly not a guy thing. My experience with middle school female coaches is pretty much the same…sadistic dykes! I had two of them. We all hated gym. We would kill each other during a game of basketball or field hockey because the losing team had to run laps. Then they would pace up and down the shower isle demanding that your panties be thrown over the rod. The bell rings and you’re late, getting a demerit for your next class. Usually math or science, something much more worthwhile than physical torture by a sadistic troll. I thought all of this had changed until…

My daughter reached middle school and began to have problems with of all things…gym. Why? Because her coach was a mustachioed hermaphrodite with a bad case of the grouchies. Even so, I instructed her that this woman was a teacher, in a position of authority and she was not allowed to get snitty with her. My poor child…how I wanted to tell her that I understood her disgust completely. Is this some unspoken criteria for middle school gym, that the coaches be petty Hitlers with a whistle?


Well, I’m etnertaining, I’m brilliant, but I (like Knight) am employed by a school as an educator. If I did some of the things he did I would be fired.

P.S. I have coached almost 20 National Champions in speech and debate–small time in public interest, but I did it without throwing tantrums.

P.P.S. John Wooden has over three times the number of championships that Knight has. he not only never CHOKED a player, he never even screamed at them or showed them his crap (literally) or berated them.

Sledman, WHY should sports be different? That’s really what I’m asking.

And, yes, I am including pro coaches in this. Managers in other fields aren’t allowed/expected to get away with this–why them?


I played various sports off and on in Junior High, High School and even a few IFC events in college. Coaches for the most part in High School are idiots, however SOMETIMES yelling and being a dick works. It ain’t pretty but it works.

Bobby Knight coaches Basketball not History. Last time I checked no one needed 3 credits of Basketball to graduate. In other words the people who play for Bobby Knight made a conscious decision to do so. Bobby Knight does not cover up what type of coach he is. That info is available to anyone who is considering playing Basketball at Indiana. That is the point of what I said. Last time I checked the players at Indiana University were over 18.

Congratulations on your championships. Any championship is worthy of congratulations. Don’t trivialize your accomplishments.

However, I don’t believe that John Wooden NEVER yelled at his players. I can’t prove prove it but as you know from debate never is a strong word. He might not have yelled much but I would bet he yelled at them some of the time.

As a professional player you are paid to perform. If you choose to loaf/take plays off you are cheating yourself, your team and the fans. At this point you are a man or woman who has chosen a job that pays you very well. You have an ability the rest of us do not have to sign a contract and then refuse to honor it. Your coach and the fans have a right to demand the best out of you and let you know when you are “tanking” it. Emotion is an integral part of sports and sometimes that boils over. It is the nature of the beast.

Now as I read what I have written I can see that we are talking about a fine line. If I tank it at work, I will get written up and eventually fired. I am cheating myself, my company(team) and my family(fans…I hope). But, I also don’t have people applauding or booing me at work.(Interesting concept)

However, I do believe the nature of physical competition is what allows the coaches actions to be viewed as acceptable. These games are downsized, less violent versions of war with defined winners and losers.

Professional sports and High School/Little League sports are similar games but very different. The youth sports are there to develop athletic skills and socialization skills. Pro sports are about winning and losing, period, end of story. Methods that are successful will be accepted(within reason).
Ditka was successful at one time but his methods/approach were no longer effective so he no longer coaches the Saints. Someone ripped on Lombardi before…ghhhh… Wow was he ever SUCCESSFUL and FAIR! You performed or you were gone!!! He let you know what was expected of you (Job Description) if you didn’t do it you were informed of your lack of performance. If it remained a problem…goodbye. Would that work today…not sure, but it did at the time!

Boby Knight is still employed as an educator. Most coaches are given jobs teaching phy ed.

Why does he get different rules? If it were known that I hit people on my debate teams, could I say “well, everyone knows that’s my motivation tool”?

At this point, I’m really not debating–I’m genuinely looking for a reason why we should alow something as trivial as sports to cross ethical boundaries that other educators cannot cross.