Many young boys of my generation were not blessed with a father to come to our games, cheer us on and push us like Papa Ferigno in Pumping Iron. The aspect of excelling at sport was a tempered fire that came from competition with one another, aspirations to be the next Michael Jordan or Deion Sanders, and the one coach that we all love, remember and appreciate.
In the media as of late we have been seeing coaches at their worst being broadcast so loudly that it seems that a man being alone with a team of boys will transform into a pedophile, a screaming lunatic, or some aggressive homophobe that physically abuses them. Good coaches are kept quiet, way too boring for television so parents react, as with anything, and keep their children off of the field.
A coach can bring the best out of you, push you to your potential, call you on your bullshit and make you great. Gabby Douglas became legend for her coach, NFL players all talk about that one coach, grown men of my generation who played any level of sport since High School has a story about THAT coach. It is an honor that means so much to a young man.
In that oh so excellent series Spartacus on STARZ they portrayed the coach/athlete relationship better than anything else with the gladiatorial teacher Oenomaus played by actor Peter Mensah. When the new bloods come in they are taught, hazed in their own way by the vets, and strive to be noticed in the eye of this man. In a locker-room it is similar and if a student respects the coach he/she will find that extra gear in order to impress him/her for whatever reason. The coach is one of the most important pieces of the puzzle in sport.
People who have never experienced the bond that I speak about here will assume that the best coaches are the guys who are quiet, poised, and intelligent-looking on the sidelines. Their experience with coaching is limited to movies like Any Given Sunday where Al Pacino shows up say some wise words and the star athletes shine… this is why the media involvement with coaches bothers me.
Talk to an athlete about that quiet-seeming coach and he will tell you the reality – that coach is probably in his face, yelling, screaming and driving the point home that he is so much better than he has been playing. Sneak a camera in on this situation and nowadays that guy is labeled as an animal.
When the Rutgers situation escalated and I saw the video of the coach on tilt, the only thing I took issue with was him physically assaulting a kid. As athletes we accept that a passionate coach is a passionate coach; the good ones want to squeeze out the potential you hold back on so that you can shine and your team in turn will win. We have all had screaming, cussing coaches… the thing that matters is – did you get better for it?
With so many secret cameras, thought police, and soft bodies making decisions on an athlete’s world, I feel a bit sad for the state of sport. If a coach cannot be expressive, passionate and a little vile then many of the players who would grow from that will not. Many kids don’t have a man at home driving that beast mode to wake up when you want it to and a coach was a necessary male figure to do this. As we continue softening the clay that molds the muscle-bound athlete of the day it may serve as a disservice to those with drive as an aloof coach will only win with players that have a natural talent. But then again I could be wrong and the screaming coach being the one that I know of, seems like the one who cares the most.
Athletes of the Hall, what do you think of coaching? I’d love to hear your take on all of this. Is it a generational thing?See some words or phrases that you don't understand? Check out The Dragon's Lexicon.