Is an Attitude Adjustment in Order for the Coaching Profession?

(The following was written by Bill Newton, a parent of former high school athletes and long-time contributor to Hackney Publications. The complete article, which examines current examples of such coaching conduct, will appear in the October issue of Concussion Litigation Reporter) 

No, the game of football is not going away, even though there are some out there that speculate that. 

Some coaches may be going away though, along with some assistants. And some universities and school districts may find their wallets substantially lighter and their hunt to secure general liability insurance more difficult to obtain, and certainly more expensive, after they get slapped around in the courtroom. But football? It’s as guaranteed as hot dogs on the 4th of July. 

If you’ve ever read The Junction Boys, Paul “Bear” Bryant’s venture intoWest Texas to toughen up his players, you were probably aghast at what went on. Sunup to sundown practices. No water. Brutal conditions. Only thirty or so players survived the ordeal. 

One can only imagine an assistant coach dealing with Bryant about a concussed player back then in 1954. It’s doubtful that any sympathy was extended. If the kid could stand up, count to ten, and knew his last name, he was probably told to get his butt back out there and stop complaining. Abuse was a 5-letter word that was apparently in nobody’s vocabulary. 

But now, it’s 2012 and the NFL concussion issue continues to make headlines. What’s also entered the limelight is football at the college, high school, and youth levels. This crisis, sparked by a flurry of lawsuits is now a full-fledged burn, eating up the countryside and spreading from one sport to another—involving boys and girls alike. 

Addressing the subject of concussions seems to largely be focused on: properly diagnosing a concussion, removing a player from play, allowing for proper healing time, and obtaining writer permission from the proper medical authority to re-enter the game. Many of the recently enacted state concussion laws are written along these guidelines, with the added caveat of educating coaches and parents in how to deal with this type of head trauma. Preventing concussions though appears to get more lip service than coming up with solutions that will truly make a difference. 

So, since the game’s not going away, what is the solution? 

What appears lacking is any discussion on today’s coaching “mindset.” 

Ask yourself this. Regardless of what level, what kind of coach does your son or daughter play for? Is he a teacher or a tyrant? Teaching involves improving mental and physical skills in a learning atmosphere with the quest for perfection. It requires finesse and knowledge of the skills. Tyranny, on the hand, is intimidation. It’s pushing, yelling, and demanding without justification. It browbeats and dehumanizes. It doesn’t make men. It grows mean, nasty players without any regard for sportsmanship—something that’s supposed to be embodied in all sports…

(The full story appears in the October issue of Concussion Litigation Reporter.)


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