What would you do if a teacher called your child names so offensive and degrading that the RGJ won’t publish them? What if your boss called you those names? Now what if a coach calls an athlete those names? Why is it coaches have a different set of standards and rules they get to go by? Why do coaches get a free pass to humiliate and bully our children?
In January, a lawsuit was filed by three high school boys claiming that they were bullied by their football coach, whose behavior in turn was supported by the school principal.
You can read the lawsuit yourself. Don’t just read the media articles; read the actual lawsuit. [See below.]
This coach’s behavior is nothing new. We see it in sports everywhere.
We justify it by saying things like “It’s just football talk.” “It builds character.” “It toughens them up for the real world.” “All coaches talk like that.” Sports psychologists have long known and studies have proven that yelling at athletes doesn’t improve their performance, yet the bullying and abuse continues. We’ve become immune to it. We shrug it off.
Why do we accept this?
Fans at sporting events are expected to demonstrate good sportsmanship. The athletes themselves get disciplined or thrown out of the game if they exhibit poor sportsmanship. Yet the coaches continue to get free reign to treat the players however they want.
These boys have stood up for themselves and complained about a coach’s abusive tactics. As a result, they suffered repercussions by being removed from the team. After filing the lawsuit, they have been called “p—–s,” “snowflakes,” and “pampered babies.” People have sarcastically stated that they need “mommy and daddy to protect them” and are “lawsuit happy.” People have insinuated they didn’t ever learn that there are consequences for their actions; when do bullying coaches learn that there are consequences for their actions?
Unless people start standing up and saying we’ve had enough, it’s not going to change. From the sounds of it, these boys did try to handle the situation themselves by addressing it with their coach. Then their parents attempted to address it. Only then did they resort to an attorney.
As a society, we change and evolve. Coaching needs to catch up with the times. No more of this “that’s the way we’ve always done it.” Teachers used to paddle or cane students for misbehavior. Fraternities used to initiate new members with hazing rituals such as physical abuse or severe alcohol intoxication. Oh sure, the old adage, “I lived through that and I turned out just fine.” But that doesn’t make these practices OK or right.
The bullying has to stop. Stop. Bullying tactics in coaching should be a thing of the past. These are our children. They deserve better.
Sandy Hellman-Horton, is the mom of 11 children, including 2 step-children, 10 of whom have attended or are currently attending WCSD schools.