ABUSIVE COACHES: There is Never Any Reason for a Coach to Grab or Shove a Player

If you hadn’t heard about this story, let me tell you about the Morehead State Men’s basketball coach Sean Woods. Up until a few weeks ago, Coach Woods had been at Morehead for several years, and had enjoyed success with the program; in fact, the school had recently renewed extended his contract through 2019.

Everything seemed to be working great.

Except that the coach apparently had a habit of showing his displeasure or frustration with his players by physically hitting or pushing them.

That is, according to several media reports over the course of this season and in previous years, Coach Woods has allegedly pushed, shoved, and even head-butted some of his players when he was upset with them or their play.

Recently, it reached the point where police were brought in and actually charged the coach with misdemeanor battery. And as a result, Coach Woods was then suspended from his coaching duties at Morehead.  Coach Woods is due in court on Feb. 9th  to respond to those charges.

And not surprisingly, along the way, the coach tendered his resignation to the university.

A CAUTIONARY TALE FOR COACHES WHO CAN’T CONTROL THEIR EMOTIONS

The history is this: There was a pushing incident involving Coach Woods with one of his players back in 2012, when Coach Woods shoved one of his players in a game against the University of Kentucky. It was caught on videotape, and Coach Woods was suspended for a game for doing that.

But now, these latest charges stem from two of his players this season, who claim that the Coach assaulted them during a game against the University of Evansville back in November, 2016. One player says the coach pushed him hard in the chest, and the other player says Coach Woods shoved him during, and after, the game.

Said one of the fathers of one of the players at the time of the incident: “This is not the first time the coach violated our trust because last year, during the season, he head-butted my son and turned around and asked him to forgive him, and he apologized. My son accepted his apology. The coach said he would never do it again. And as for the school, I’m still waiting for a response from them and to take corrective action. They say they are still investigating.”

But as noted, Coach Woods has since resigned. Morehead State now has an interim coach and will look for a new head coach at the end of this season.

For the life of me, I can’t understand how an adult coach could ever do this.  Oh, I know some coaches will claim that they have anger management issues….but to me, if you have anger management issues, then in my opinion, you really shouldn’t be coaching kids in the first place.

Some of us remember Bobby Knight physically assaulting his players at Indiana, and that eventually led to his dismissal even though he had put together a tremendous winning record. Speaking of coaches with successful programs, how about Ohio State’s Woody Hayes punching out an opposing player from Clemson in a college bowl game on national TV Then more recently, Mike Rice at Rutgers was justifiably let go for grabbing his players, throwing basketballs at them, ripping them with profanity, and so on.

And yes, I know we have a forgiving society, and people deserve a second chance, but as a head coach? I mean, you are charged with leadership and with responsible behavior. That’s a fundamental part of the job. As such, I can’t imagine how a coach who does this to his players would really ever deserve a second chance. In my opinion, it’s just unconscionable.

Just as I feel sports parents need to be held to a zero tolerance standard, the same goes for coaches as well.  In other words, as a coach, you should just know better ALL THE TIME not to push, bully, grab, or assault your players. If you do, then you — just like your athletes – have to be accountable for your actions.

The callers on my show this AM all agreed with this, some of them remembering when a coach assaulted them many years ago. It left an indelible mark on their memory. Others praised coaches today who clearly draw the line between yelling at one’s players as opposed to grabbing or pushing them.  While I’m not necessarily in favor of verbal abuse (verbal abuse is right there with bullying), I was heartened to hear the coach in question didn’t resort to physical violence.

As to what would a parent should do if their son or daughter told them about a coach who was physical? No question this is a serious complaint and needs to be fully examined and investigated. Those basketball players at Morehead were right to have spoken about their coach.

We all hope and pray that this kind of abuse has been drastically reduced from a generation ago, when it was somewhat seen as a coach just being tough with his players. But it was unacceptable then, and still unacceptable today.