By: Matt Daley
We have discussed in class many ways a coach could help positive youth development. I have played for many different coaches and most of them have left me with a positive reflection on the time spent with them. Some coaches have left me with a bad impression of them and their coaching style. Growing up, I had one coach who no matter how good you played or how much we won by, had something negative to say. This made a few players very upset and some players ended up quitting. It felt like you could never be successful. No matter how hard you worked, you were failing. There were no positive moments and I felt very worthless. There is a line where coaches have to realize that negativity has to stop. Coach Mike Rice of Rutgers University Basketball team does not know this line as he is only negative in his coaching.
Earlier this year head basketball coach from Rutgers University, Mike Rice, was fired for his behavior while coaching. He was caught physically and verbally abusing his players in practice. He was caught on camera kicking, pushing and throwing balls at player’s heads. He also used anti-gay slurs while talking towards his players. In a video that shows the coach in action during practice, you see countless times where Coach Mike Rice grabs players and abuses them both physically and verbally. When the new director of player development witnessed this behavior, he immediately brought it to the school and demanded that something was done. After seeing the footage, the school officials suspended and later fired Coach Mike Rice. I find it interesting that the school had to agree on a settlement to pay the coach after ending his contract. In my opinion the firing was for a good reason which would result in no settlement. The coach bullied one player so hard that he could not handle it any longer and transferred schools. This type of treatment could be very negative for any athlete at any age.
As a coach at the university level, the job requires you sometimes scream and curse at players in order to demand the best performance. It is the coach’s job to know there are always different personalities on a team. Some players will respond better to being yelled at, but others will play even worse. The coach needs to know his players and the limit of what he can say. Personally, I respond better to criticism so I have been yelled at by coaches my entire life. Things that have been said to me vary from being called “a chicken s***” or being told I need to “grow the f*** up”. These both were said in context of how I was playing basketball and I responded by working harder so I would never hear those things again. Others may react differently to this type of treatment. These don’t even compare to the type of things Coach Mike Rice of Rutgers was saying. There is a line that can’t be crossed in a player-coach relationship. You should never insult the player on a personal level. Coach Mike Rice was calling people “faggots” on a daily basis. This would have nothing to do with basketball, but just the person in general. One of Mike Rice’s players said that he respected the coach, but if he could say one thing to him today it would be, “I love you coach, but you need to change”. This coaching style was obviously not working and the players were not responding.
Youth development does not stop for a university student. Young student athletes are still viewing their coaches as “a role model” or even “a father figure”. College students are still developing and need positive role models to steer them on the right paths. Most players will go on to be coaches themselves so almost everything they learn now will impact them in future. This type of behavior by a coach could impact the players personally and as coaches. This will continue on until someone finally stops this behavior. Mike Rice attacks each of these players on a personal level which could cause internal psychological problems. College students are still trying to figure out what they are going to be in the future and what type of person they are. Having someone constantly attack you could affect those thoughts and affect you as a person in the long run. The player could completely lose any self-confidence and cause low self-esteem.
A basketball team in university becomes the closest thing to a family. You spend large amounts of time with teammates and coaches and develop strong relationships. Being abused on your team could be experienced similarly to being abused at home by your family. Alyssa already wrote about third places and how important they are for youth development. Third Places are supposed to be a safe environment where the youth can get away from everything else going on and enjoy an activity. I know for me, the basketball gym is that place. When I am feeling angry, sad, or just need to get away from something going on, I will go play basketball. It has always been a positive place for me and I still use it while being in university. Mike Rice made it nearly impossible for his players to make basketball their third place. They would constantly take physical and psychological abuse when at practice. This makes the gym no longer a safe place. It would more likely make basketball a negative environment where they do not want to return to. This type of abuse in your “third place” or “safe place” could have serious impacts on youth.
Coaches are one of the most important keys to being successful as a basketball player. In most situations they know what needs to be said or done to the player to get the best performance. But it can easily be taken too far if the coach does not understand the players or how they feel. If the players are verbally and physically abused on a daily basis, then they will lose respect for their coach along with any possible positive outcomes from playing. Coaching at the university level still needs to be about developing the players in a positive way. My coach always talks about becoming “men”. It is not only about basketball or school but about getting prepared for life. Verbally and physically abusing players is bullying, not coaching.