Archive for April, 2013

COACHING TIPS: How to “Time” Your Practice Sessions in Advance

Players’ Attention Span During Practice Sessions

by Doug Abrams

 Coaches are teachers who deliver most of their lessons in practice sessions and games, rather than in conventional classrooms.  In youth leagues and interscholastic sports programs alike, learning and performance depend not on the coach’s delivery, but on the players’ reception. Paul “Bear” Bryant, Alabama’s longtime football coach, was right:  “No coach has ever won a game by what he knows.   It’s what his players know that counts.” 

Like other teachers, coaches must accommodate the limits of their students’ attention span.  In early February, I wrote about attention span during games. http://24.124.64.148/askcoachwolff/2013/02/09/coaching-tips-how-to-teach-players-during-the-heat-of-the-game/. This column concerns aspects of attention span during practice sessions, which I began discussing in another column a few weeks ago.  http://24.124.64.148/askcoachwolff/2013/02/22/coaching-tips-how-to-keep-practices-fun-during-a-long-season/.    

Attention Span During Practice Sessions

 As they explore the limits of youthful attention span, educational psychologists tell us that “requiring students to work for relatively long durations before they have attained minimum levels of speed and accuracy may actually depress learning rates.” Researchers also explain that “until students attain minimal levels of speed and accuracy on individual . . . tasks, they typically lack the ability to maintain steady performance levels for extended periods of time.”  

In practice sessions, coaches begin accommodating their players’ attention span by taking a carefully devised written agenda onto the field with a clipboard or other device. The agenda should make optimal use of every moment, and keep all players mentally and physically involved as much as possible in every drill. 

My practice agenda usually included more material than we could cover during the session, but I wanted to have material in reserve (the proverbial “Plan B”) just in case the session did not proceed entirely as I anticipated. “Down time,” while coaches appear tentative and unsure of themselves, diminishes attention span by encouraging players’ minds to wander.

Watch the players carefully as the practice agenda unfolds.  The coaches might allot fifteen minutes to a particular drill, for example, but might need to improvise if they see the players growing frustrated, inattentive or bored after five minutes, or enthusiastic after fourteen.  Good coaches remain flexible, think on their feet, and react to the players’ attention span on a moment’s notice.

Marathon Practice Sessions

When I was in high school and college years ago, my teammates and I heard stories about two-hour practice sessions that might drag on for three or four hours as the coaches tried to coax the players to master a difficult skill or technique.  I doubt that the players usually mastered very much in the last hour or two, though, because children and adolescents cannot maintain their attention span on the practice field for such open-ended periods of time. 

Perhaps marathon practices are less frequent in many places today because fields and other sports facilities tend to operate on much tighter schedules to meet greater demand and diminished availability.  In any event, I have always felt that a practice session (like a class period in school) should start at a fixed time and end at a fixed time. 

For one thing, I suspect that open-ended practice sessions increase player fatigue and thus also risk of injury. Beyond this risk, however, serious players thrive on self-discipline that comes from mental preparation for a discrete period known in advance.  Because teams accomplish very little as instruction and performance grow muddled later in a marathon practice, coaches are much better off ending at the prescribed time and resuming instruction and conditioning next time. 

A centuries-old adage, “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” reminds us that mastering and completing important tasks may take time and patience.  Accomplished sports teams aren’t built in a day either.   When players do not grasp a difficult skill or strategy today, that is what the next practice session is for. 

 [Source: Carl Binder et al., Increasing Endurance by Building Fluency: Precision Teaching Attention Span, Teaching Exceptional Children 24 (Spring 1990)]

ABUSIVE COACHES: The Fallout Continues…4-Time National Coach of the Year is Forced to Step Down

The legacy of the Rutgers/Mike Rice disaster has claimed another college coach. Bill Holowaty, the long-time and highly successful baseball coach at Eastern Connecticut State, was suspended with pay last week, but then, the 68-year-old coach simply decided to retire.

He had been the head baseball at Eastern Connecticut, a perennial Div. III powerhouse, for 45 years.

There were several charges brought against Holowaty by the school’s athletic director and the school’s president, but overall, according to media reports, most of the focus from the administation came about concerns about Holowaty’s very strict approach to coaching, as well as some anger management issues.

In a recent game this spring, Holowaty had fired a batting helmet into the crowd, and in previous years, there had been incidents in which he allegedly kicked a player and also struck a player. Holowaty claims that both of these incidents were accidental, and that he immediately apologized when they occurred.

Regardless, the administration also mentioned that there had been other complaints from players on his teams, and as such, seeing that college and HS coaches are under more scrutiny than ever before, Eastern Connecticut felt the time had come to suspend the coach.

Holowaty’s teams had won the NCAA national championship 4 times in his long career, and he had been named Coach of the Year 4 times as well. Anybody who ever saw Eastern play over the years knows that this was a crisp, well-disciplined program.

But coaching approaches have changed, and Eastern Connecticut is just the next one to make that change.

To me, the takeaway from Holowaty and Rice is that the nation’s coaching community is going through a major sea change. Clearly the “old school” approach of being a tough disciplinarian with athletes is changing. Profane, demanding, and physically abusive coaches are no longer being tolerated. And in this case, even though the coach was highly successful.

What today’s coaches need to understand is that you can still very much be a disciplinarian – but you have to do it in a smart and reasonable fashion. There’s no need for cursing. There’s no need to grab kids in practice. There’s no need to explode in anger when things don’t go your way on the field.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t have rules that need to be enforced. It also means that kids need to  understand that you’re still in charge, you’re the one who determines playing time, and you’re the one that they have to impress.

Coaches today who understand these basic principles are those who are going to succeed. Yes, as a coach, you can stil be tough – but tough has finally joined the 21st century.

Div. I vs. Div. III – If Your Athlete is Looking At Colleges…

A note from Rick Wolff: Let me introduce you to Rich Wolfin, who — like so many of us – dreamed of his son Jake someday playing college basketball. And Jake was flat-out terrific in HS, and as a result, started to think about getting an athletic scholarship to a major Div. I program…..but I’m getting ahead of myself. I asked Rich to write up a short summary of the choice the Jake made when it came to playing ball in college.

The Div. III Alternative.  Live and Learn.

 By Rich Wolfin

What would you say to your son or daughter playing the sport they love in college after a lifetime of giving it everything they had to be the best they could be? 

What if I further told you that your kid would get a top notch college education while doing so?  Sounds great right? 

OK, one more question:  Would you sign up for this if you have to pay for or finance some or all of their tuition?  These are the questions I faced and many of you should consider when looking into your child becoming an NCAA D-III athlete versus D-I scholarship earner.

 Like many of you, once my son showed that he had great talent in his given sport, in his case basketball, I had visions of watching him compete at the next level in college.  To me, that only meant D-I with the attendant attention and scholarship dollars that were part of it.  I really knew nothing of D-III NCAA sports except the common fallacy that this level was just above the average high school competition.  Boy, was I wrong in believing that. 

 To understand how I learned this and how it ended up being the greatest lesson for me, a little history:

 My son Jake showed tremendous aptitude and talent in basketball well beyond his years from the time he was a little boy.  From an early age, he was blessed to have equally talented teammates who were his best friends, and more importantly great coaches who put these kids in tough competition all over New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.  When they hit high school, they continued to excel and all of them began to get individual recognition and notice from colleges.  Jake and his two best friends played together in high school and all three went on to play in college. 

 After much publicized freshman and sophomore high school seasons, many mid-majors began to send Jake letters indicating that he was on their radar.  Jake then began to attend the typical camps and showcases D-I coaches used to measure the talent they choose from.  Fairly quickly, it became apparent that Jake’s skill set was equal to or above many, but to land the coveted D-I scholarship spot, the game needed to be played at a pace and height that he was not capable of.  The D-I letters and calls began to wane and then stopped altogether. 

 It was then that Jake’s AAU coach made us aware of the opportunity of playing at the D3 level.  I did everything I could to learn what D-III was all about and came away very impressed from both an academic and athletic perspective.  To me it was a great chance for Jake to play, but for one huge difference:  There are no athletic scholarships at the D-III level. 

 Jake and I had a heart to heart candid conversation from which I came away knowing that he wanted to play college ball.  We decided to shift our attention wishing and hoping to hear from D-I schools to making D-III coaches aware thru Jake’s AAU coach that he was interested and committed to playing at their schools.  At this point, Jake attended the most important basketball camps for D-III coaches known as Academic Elite camps.  These camps required a submission of your high school transcripts which insured that you were a viable candidate for the high academic requirements of many of the top D-III schools. 

 Jake ultimately ended up at Middlebury College in Vermont, one of the top academic schools in the country on every national poll.  His basketball experience was nothing short of spectacular, but more on that later.  As a non-scholarship “Student” Athlete, Jake was expected to do as much or more in the classroom as on the basketball court.  Educationally, he flourished through hard work.  Socially, he found a caring community of friends, professors and alumni all of which embraced Middlebury athletes as much as any big time D-I program ever could.  At Middlebury, Jake was able to be an athlete and student.  While I’m sure most D-I athletes find the same, over the years we have seen and heard too many stories of scholarship athletes who find their experience is one closer to employee of the school they attend than it is to being a student. 

 From an athletic standpoint, Jake’s time at Middlebury was full of wins and accolades.  He was a starter from the 1st game of his freshman year thru this year’s Elite 8 of the D-III NCAA Tournament.  During his four year tenure as Middlebury’s point guard, the team  won more games (104-14) than they had ever done in any other four year period over more than 100 years of Middlebury basketball.  Jake ended up as the school’s all-time assist leader, in the top 3 in steals and 12th all-time in scoring.  Over the past four seasons, the team went to a NCAA Sweet 16, Elite 8 and Final 4.  Most importantly as with D3 sports across the board, Jake took advantage of the opportunity to compete at a very high level and grow from it.  If you have not seen D3 competition, you owe it to your child and yourself to do so.  It is keen, intense and full of great rivalries and traditions. 

 Would I have liked to have had Jake’s education paid for?  Obviously, yes, but to be honest I know he will be better off for a lifetime from the D-III experience and the fullness of it at so many levels.  We all want the best for our kids.  D-III ended up being the best for my son and it might well be for your son or daughter as well.  Go out and do your homework and save, save and then save some more.  The best for your child often carries a big price tag for one very important reason:  It is worth it…            

PS – if you’d like to reach Rich Wolfin with questions about D-III sports, you can contact him at RWolfin@textol.com     

ABUSIVE COACHES: Key Steps that Every Coach Needs to Review

The only positive that has come out of the Rutgers/Mike Rice situation is that sports parents, athletes, and educators are beginning to speak up about verbally abusive coaches.

Personally I have heard over the last two weeks from a number of parents about their kids’ coaches, and how out of control these coaches are. It’s just an epidemic that needs to be stopped in its tracks.

Let me quickly run through some basic steps that every coach – no matter youth, HS, travel team, or even collegiate — needs to learn, and abide by:

Always think BEFORE you open your mouth. Before you make any comment or criticism, think ahead as to what kind of impact your words will have on your team.

Learn to PAUSE before you say anything. If you’re the coach, remember that every kid on your team is listening to every word you utter. If you say something derogatory or hurtful, it’s really going to linger. Always bear that in mind.

Avoid SARCASM at all costs. It just doesn’t work, and even worse, it de-motivates your players. Don’t do it.

Tell your ASSISTANT COACHES that if they hear you go off in a bad way, then they need to intervene right away and let you know to rope yourself back in. Listen to them.

And finally, if you find you can’t STOP YOURSELF from yelling and screaming at your team, then really give some serious thought as to whether you’re in the right profession.

The time has come to stop this. Coaches are EDUCATORS, not ego-driven tyrants.

And now….a commercial message

People ask me all the time about the various sports parenting books Ive written over the years, and where they can be purchased. Traditionally, I have sent people to bookstores to find  a copy or two, but I realize that there are fewer bookstores around these days, and shelf space in them is always tight.

As a result, I decided to make it easier on everybody and to start releasing my books in ebook format. And the first one that has just been converted into ebook format is THE SPORTS PARENTING EDGE: What Every Parent Needs to Know in the Changing World of Youth Sports.

You can download a copy from much any online retailer (such as Amazon/Kindle or BN.com or others) for only $4.99,which is considerably less than its original hardcover price of $25. Quite immodestly, I will tell you that THE SPORTS PARENTING EDGE is chock full of great information and advice about navigating your youngster through the treacherous waters of amateur sports these days. And it’s a quick read.

With my thanks – Rick Wolff

MOVIE REVIEW: A New Look at a Classic Film…

 

“Searching for Bobby Fischer”:  A “Wonderful” Chess Movie for Youth Sports Parents and Coaches

By Doug Abrams

 

Two recent national news stories spurred me to write a different kind of column this time.  What follows is my first-ever movie review, about a film that can still stimulate parents and coaches to think seriously about what is best for their young athletes.

The first recent national news story reported the passing of Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic Roger Ebert, the Chicago Sun-Times’ movie reviewer for more than four decades.  The second story reported on March Madness and its climax with the Final Four and the National Championship.

No, not that Final Four.  I mean the Final Four of College Chess, which took place in suburban Washington, D.C. last weekend.  The Washington Post says that the intercollegiate chess tournament “rais[es] the specter of the sort of arms race that plagues other college sports.”

“In the cutthroat world of college chess,” explains the Post, the “University of Maryland Baltimore County was once as dominant as Duke in basketball or Alabama in football.”  But several other colleges and universities now give UMBC a run for its money each year by offering full chess scholarships to top players, recruiting high-priced international grandmasters as coaches, and even luring top chess coaches from competitor schools with commitments of greater institutional support.  Seeking to vault in national academic rankings, more and more colleges perceive chess as a way to “build a reputation as an intellectual powerhouse” that trains students for critical thinking.

Last weekend’s Final Four pitted chess teams from UMBC, Webster University in St. Louis, the University of Texas at Dallas, and the University of Illinois. Webster won the national championship.

Chess and Sports

The recent emergence of full scholarships, recruiting, and tournament play in intercollegiate chess invites the analogy that the Post draws with intercollegiate sports. This analogy prompts me to recommend one of my favorite movies, “Searching for Bobby Fischer,” to youth sports parents, coaches and programs.

Bobby Fischer, of course, was the former grandmaster and world champion who was widely considered the greatest chess player in history before he went into hiding and lived most of his short life as a recluse.   “Searching for Bobby Fischer” tells the true story of seven-year-old chess prodigy Josh Waitzkin, based on a book written by his father, Fred Waitzkin.

Most of us would agree with writer James A.  Michener, who said that chess is not a sport at all because it does not “place a demand upon big muscles, lung capacity, sweat glands, and particularly the heart.”  Why, then, recommend a chess drama as instructive viewing for youth sports parents and coaches?

The answer is that twenty years after its release, “Searching for Bobby Fischer” still sends universal messages about hyper-parenting, childhood fun, and early specialization in one activity.  Considering the direction in which sports parenting sometimes seems to be headed these days, the 110-minute film may be more relevant today than ever before.  This wholesome drama about parenting a chess prodigy makes excellent viewing at home or in mandatory pre-season parents seminars because adult influence is adult influence, no matter what the child’s activity happens to be.

“But I Don’t Hate Them”

Sit back, open the popcorn, and enjoy.  “Searching for Bobby Fischer” tells the story of seven-year-old Josh Waitzkin, a chess prodigy who ultimately achieves national championship status.  Recognizing the boy’s gift, his sportswriter father (Joe Mantegna) hires a stern private coach (Ben Kingsley), enrolls his son in an elite Manhattan private school, begins traveling with him to distant tournaments most weekends, and pressures the boy to win every one.  (Sound familiar?)

Josh soon ranks number one in his age group nationally, but his mother Bonnie (Joan Allen) has mixed feelings because she wants the boy to have a normal childhood.  Josh wants chess to be fun, hopes to play second base for the New York Yankees someday, loses an important match because of the pressure, and gets his greatest enjoyment from playing speed chess informally against men who spend their days in nearby Washington Square Park in New York City.

The movie delivers scenes and dialog that would not surprise parents or coaches who have spent time around youth sports.  In Josh’s first tournament, the seven-year-olds inside the hall had to wait while the directors broke up a hallway fist fight between groups of parents before herding them behind a locked partition so that the kids could play undisturbed.  Josh’s stern private coach later instructed him that to win, “You have to have contempt for your opponents.  You have to hate them.”  To which, the seven-year-old instantly replied, “But I don’t hate them.”

With tournament pressures building, Josh’s parents square off.  “If you’re afraid of losing, you lose,” says Fred, about his son, “He’s afraid of losing.”  “He’s not afraid of losing,” counters Bonnie, “He’s afraid of losing your love. . . . He knows you think he’s weak, but he’s not weak. He’s decent. But if you . . . or anyone else tries to beat it out of him, I’ll take him away.”

Josh’s father soon comes around to his wife’s thinking, refuses the stern coach’s advice that the boy stop playing speed chess in the park, and makes chess fun again for his son while also encouraging the boy to pursue other activities. In the end, Josh’s best coaching at the national championships in Chicago comes not from the credentialed private coach, but from one of the men he plays in the park (Laurence Fishburne).

In the end, Josh Waitzkin succeeds by playing chess his way, backed by the support of his mother and reformed father.  The 1993 movie ends with this screen:  “Josh Waitzkin still plays chess. He is currently the highest-ranked player in the United States under 18.  He also plays baseball, basketball, football, and soccer. And in the summer, goes fishing.”

“Remarkable Sensitivity and Insight”

Whether simply watching a film, even one as good as “Searching for Bobby Fischer,” will influence adult behavior depends on the adult. But no sports parent or coach could miss the similarities between parenting in chess and parenting in . . . [fill in the name of the sport].  This movie is not only about chess, any more than Denzel Washington’s “Remember the Titans” is only about football, or that “42,” the new movie about Jackie Robinson, is only about baseball.

What did Roger Ebert think of “Searching for Bobby Fischer”? In a 1993 review, he gave it four stars (his highest rating) as a “wonderful . . . film of remarkable sensitivity and insight” that teaches “a great deal about human nature.”  Sensitivity, insight and human nature mean plenty — in chess or in sports.

 

[Sources:  Michael S. Rosenwald, Kings of College Chess Under Attack, Washington Post, Apr. 6, 2013, p. A1; Michael S. Rosenwald, Webster Wins Final Four of Chess, With UMBC Finishing Third, Washington Post, April 8, 2013; James A. Michener, Sports in America, pp. 10-11 (1976); Roger Ebert, Searching for Bobby Fischer, Aug. 11, 1993 (review),http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19930811/REVIEWS/308110301/1023. Trailers: “Searching for Bobby Fischer,” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0pdY47NJv-g; “Remember the Titans,” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Itqiy2N6Uo; “42,” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I9RHqdZDCF0.  Thank you to John Coleman for bringing the first Washington Post Article to my attention.]

ABUSIVE COACHES: The Fallout from the Rutgers Fiasco

I felt compelled to talk about the aftermath regarding the Coach Mike Rice and Rutgers’ coaching mess on my show this AM. To me, there are two major piece of this mess. One, of course, is the outrageous behavior of Mike Rice. How in the world an individual can reach the heights in NCAA basketball and still get away with this kind of unneeded verbal and physical abuse is still beyond me.

One caller who is heavily involved with AAU basketball in NJ called in this AM, and he was trying to defend Rice — saying that Mike is actually a decent guy and cares deeply about his players. But after letting the caller make his point, I asked him: “You run an AAU program, correct? Let me ask you this…if you saw one of your coaches doing to a bunch of players what Coach Rice was doing, what would you do?”

And to his credit, the caller immediately said, “I’d fire that kind of coach right on the spot.”

Amen.

Which brings to me to the second piece of this mess – a lack of leadership and accountability.

Why didn’t any of Rice’s assistant coaches step up and caution Mike? Take him aside after practice and tell him to calm down, that his antics might not be perceived in the right light. And to remind him that all of his practices are videotaped.

What about the athletic director at Rutgers, Tim Pernetti? A lot of people feel he’s the scapegoat, since he apparently recommended to his bosses that Rice be fired immediately. But Pernetti was overrruled by the brass, who told him that Rice should be merely suspended and fined. I only wish Pernetti had stood his ground, and told the academics at Rutgers that, no, Rice has to go immediately. If Pernetti had done that, he would be seen today as a hero and a leader, not as someone who is now looking for a job.

Also, did Pernetti originally hire Rice? If yes, did he do a thorough background check on Rice’s coaching style? A lot of people have told me that Rice has always been this way in coaching kids. If that’s true, did Pernetti just overlook that aspect of Rice’s behavior when he hired him?

And why would an outside attorney need to be assigned to write up a 50-page paper on Rice’s behavior – only to conclude that Rice’s style was unorthodox but otherwise acceptable in the world of college coaching.  How did this lawyer come to THAT conclusion? Did he ever hear of Bobby Knight who got fired from Indiana for similar kinds of behavior?

Then there’s Eric Murdoch, the assistant coach who served as a whistleblower in this case. He’s being portrayed as a disgruntled employee who is tried extort money from Rutgers or else would give the tapes to ESPN.  Without getting into the merits of Murdoch’s case, let’s just remember that if he hadn’t given the tapes to ESPN, then Rice would most likely still be the coach at Rutgers, his players would still be abused, and it would be still be status quo.

Finally, there’s Dr. Barchi, the president of the school. His apparent indifferent attitude towards this case is just stunning. How could he take it so lightly as to not even view the videotape until this had become a full-blown national disgrace? I just don’t understand that.

All in all, a total and thoroughly disgraceful mess in all ways. If I had a son or daughter who was being recruited by Rutgers,  I must confess that I would have to ask some pretty tough questions about the school, its coaching approach, and the leadership at the top.

ABUSIVE COACHES: What Parents Should Learn from Rutgers/Mike Rice

WE CAN ALL DO BETTER

By Dan Venezia

(“Coach Dan”, a former professional baseball player in the Minnesota Twins organization and an author, conducts clinics on sportsmanship.)

When any of us, as a parent, sends a child to college with the expectation that the child will participate in varsity athletics, the college is taking the child on loan. The college and the athletic coach share an obligation and a responsibility to ensure that the child is in a safe and nurturing environment.

Many, and probably most, college students are away from home for the first time.  If the college coach cares for team members as human beings first and athletes second, it’s probably safe to say that those players are in good hands.  A good coach will treat players with respect and, ideally, affection.  The coach should: motivate the players to work harder; set goals; and design strategies to improve skills that will work effectively, not only on the athletic field, but in the classroom as well.  We know that those skills have a carryover effect and will have practical use in the workplace, at home, and in the community. 

However, when the coach physically and mentally abuses athletes the way Mike Rice allegedly treated his basketball team, the “borrowed” children almost certainly will suffer severe consequences.  We know from experience that children often emulate the behavior that’s in front of them.  Unfortunately, many likely will become part of a vicious cycle of abuse begetting abuse down through generations.

 An NBA player would not allow his coach to kick or shove him.   As bad as many of the youth coaches are, I don’t believe we would allow a youth basketball coach to throw basketballs at our children’s heads or verbally abuse them with homophobic slurs.  However, we seem to give high school and college coaches a lot of slack.  For some reason, we seem to believe that the coach knows best when it comes to our teenage children.  In our effort to prepare our children for the real world, we give these coaches too much authority. 

Unfortunately, some of them abuse their power.  Teenage children, or even 20 or 21 year-old Juniors or Seniors, are likely to be afraid to speak up when the coach crosses the line.  They don’t want to stand up to an authority figure, particularly one who has the backing of a large and powerful institution.  They are afraid to be ostracized among their peers, they fear losing playing time, and they are petrified of losing their scholarships.  The result: they play scared and they get scarred.

There is a better way to coach and mentor our children.  Players play better when they respect their coach.  How can a coach gain that respect through physical and mental abuse?   John Wooden didn’t throw balls at, kick, or shove his players and they loved and respected him.  Although cause and effect may not be demonstrable, it is likely that his relationship with his players helped his teams achieve 10 national championships, including 7 in a row, in his 27 years as head coach of UCLA.  He may have turned out some professional players along the way, but, more importantly, he undoubtedly helped create many quality human beings.

 I hope the Rice incident is a wakeup call for colleges, high schools, and our youth athletic leagues.  We all can do better.  Universities have to be more careful when hiring coaches.  Coaches have to realize that, while they are trying to build a championship team, they should be building, not destroying, the players’ characters. 

Finally, parents must teach their young children to speak up when they are being treated poorly, even if that treatment is coming from an adult.  This will go a long way towards ensuring that our children will be returned in better shape, both physically and mentally, than when we dropped them off.

ABUSIVE COACHES: My Anger with the Rutgers’ Basketball Situation

What happened with Mike Rice and the Rutgers mens’ basketball program just angers me deeply. And it should anger youn deeply as well.

If you are a coach – whether it be at the youth level, travel team level, HS or college – it is absolutely sacrosanct that you never physically or verbally abuse your athletes. This is so basic…so fundamental….so blatantly obvious that most athletic directors don’t even bother to even discuss these concerns with their new coaches.

But clearly this message didn’t get through to Mike Rice. As shown in numerous incidents on the videotape of his practice sessions, grabbing, kicking, throwing basketballs, and shouting horrible slurs at his players was apparently pretty much standard behavior for him.

Mind you, this is a Division I coach at a major university where his players are  handpicked and recruited to play there. He earned $750,000 a year, which made him one of the school’s top employees. And I’m sure he didn’t tell his recruits that if they don’t play well, he will scream at them and throw things at them.

It’s just staggering. Doesn’t the coach realize that all of his practices are videotaped? Why didn’t his assistant coaches try and curb him? And why Rutgers’ attorney put together a 50-page paper that basically concluded that such coaching behavior was not unusual.

Now, I’m not going to get into a discussion of why the AD didn’t fire Rice on the spot, or why the college president wasn’t more proactive in this, and so on. I just want to focus on the moral wrongness of any coach who thinks the best way to motivate and gain the response of his players is by assaulting them with verbal and physical abuse.

Coaching – at its core – is about communication. Teaching. Instructing kids how to improve their game. Educating them in sports, and in life.

Nowhere is there any room for this kind of behavior. This isn’t coaching. It’s abuse.

I feel sorry for the Rutgers’ players, who simply were forced to endurse this onslaught of nonsense. After all, they can’t retaliate since that would cost them playing time from the coach. And if the kids complained to their parents, the only solution there would be is for the youngster to transfer to another college. But that’s difficult and problematic as well.

This Rutgers situation is far from being over. There will be more resignations or firings, more lawsuits. And in this case, I personally think all of this is fully justified. I hope the NCAA weighs in as well, just like they did with the Joe Paterno/Penn Statue fiasco, and punishes the school administration (just don’t punish the student-athletes – they’ve been punished enough).

One last word: make sure that the people who coach your kids are fully trained and have their priorities in order. Abusive coaches simply have no place in our world.

ABUSIVE COACHES: My Anger with the Rutgers’ Basketball Situation

What happened with Mike Rice and the Rutgers mens’ basketball program just angers me deeply. And it should anger youn deeply as well.

If you are a coach – whether it be at the youth level, travel team level, HS or college – it is absolutely sacrosanct that you never physically or verbally abuse your athletes. This is so basic…so fundamental….so blatantly obvious that most athletic directors don’t even bother to even discuss these concerns with their new coaches.

But clearly this message didn’t get through to Mike Rice. As shown in numerous incidents on the videotape of his practice sessions, grabbing, kicking, throwing basketballs, and shouting horrible slurs at his players was apparently pretty much standard behavior for him.

Mind you, this is a Division I coach at a major university where his players are  handpicked and recruited to play there. He earned $750,000 a year, which made him one of the school’s top employees. And I’m sure he didn’t tell his recruits that if they don’t play well, he will scream at them and throw things at them.

It’s just staggering. Doesn’t the coach realize that all of his practices are videotaped? Why didn’t his assistant coaches try and curb him? And why Rutgers’ attorney put together a 50-page paper that basically concluded that such coaching behavior was not unusual.

Now, I’m not going to get into a discussion of why the AD didn’t fire Rice on the spot, or why the college president wasn’t more proactive in this, and so on. I just want to focus on the moral wrongness of any coach who thinks the best way to motivate and gain the response of his players is by assaulting them with verbal and physical abuse.

Coaching – at its core – is about communication. Teaching. Instructing kids how to improve their game. Educating them in sports, and in life.

Nowhere is there any room for this kind of behavior. This isn’t coaching. It’s abuse.

I feel sorry for the Rutgers’ players, who simply were forced to endurse this onslaught of nonsense. After all, they can’t retaliate since that would cost them playing time from the coach. And if the kids complained to their parents, the only solution there would be is for the youngster to transfer to another college. But that’s difficult and problematic as well.

This Rutgers situation is far from being over. There will be more resignations or firings, more lawsuits. And in this case, I personally think all of this is fully justified. I hope the NCAA weighs in as well, just like they did with the Joe Paterno/Penn Statue fiasco, and punishes the school administration (just don’t punish the student-athletes – they’ve been punished enough).

One last word: make sure that the people who coach your kids are fully trained and have their priorities in order. Abusive coaches simply have no place in our world.