Cleat Geeks

(dis)Respect For Coaches

Recent stories have come to light that players are not performing at their highest levels in order to get a new, or different, coach. In a vernacular that most of us might more easily understand. Players are sandbagging to get their current coach fired.

The current claims, across the various genres of sports, come at the highest levels and specifically involve the mega millions of dollars stars. Their actions simply say, ‘If you don’t like your coach, then just lie-down on the job and lose, to get the guy you don’t like replaced with someone you might like better.

In some organizations it appears to be a very popular and prevalent procedure of doing business. One organization’s players have hinted that they have done it before, so why not do it again.

With reasoning like:
‘It’s worked before. No reason to think it won’t work again.’
‘If the owner would only listen to us then things, like this, wouldn’t have to happen.’
‘My contract is guaranteed. I’ll get paid win or lose.’

The most recent suspicions involve professional basketball. The smaller size of the teams and number of active participants on the court at any-given point makes this scenario much more doable than perhaps in other sports. It would only take a few sandbaggers to make the difference in a close loss or a close win. However, it is very reasonable to think that most any sport could participate in such beguiling behavior. Is this not another form of game fixing?

My observance on this state of affairs comes from the perspective of a coach of over 25 years. I must stipulate that the players and teams I coached were high school level amateur athletes and obviously not professional. However, I have rarely if ever doubted that my athletes gave their best effort each time on the field or court. Anytime I even had a whim that an athlete was not giving their all, I made a substitution. The substitution was to protect the integrity of the player and the integrity of the entire team.

When I say ‘not giving their all’, it did not ever mean that they were sandbagging. It often meant:
-They were ill. It happens all the time everyone gets sick, even well conditioned athletes. Heaven knows that in every true competitor beats the heart of someone who does not want to sit on the bench, ever, and plays with injuries.
-They could have had an exhausting day in the classroom. Remember the vast majority of sports participation in the United States is by student-athletes, emphasis on student.
-Perhaps this was their third day, not just game in a row to pitch. For those not in the know, Fast-pitch Softball does not have a maximum number of innings for a pitcher. She can pitch every game. So three days could equal three double-headers. For those readers that are stick and ball challenged that would be six games in three days.
-Emotional and physiological distress unrelated to team or competition issues. A plethora of reasons could be in motion at that point. Arguments with family, friends, or significant others always occur at the most inopportune times. (In my experience usually at tournament time.) For female athletes, a monthly visit from ‘Aunt Flo’ never happens on an off day.

I would never say ‘never’ in relation to athletes and teams giving up on a coach. (I can only hope that my teams never gave up on me.) Sometimes there are matches made in the front office that just can’t seem to ‘gee and haw’ on the field or court. Examples abound of coaches who were verbally abusive and otherwise, that schools or clubs no longer employ. Today’s athletes, generally, do not respond to that form of coaching.

My very modest success as a coach (state champions and Division I athletes) came by showing and treating my athletes like they were my ‘kids’ and extended family members. I am sure that would not work for everyone, but it did work for me.

The athletes I have encountered may not be or ever become the world-class multi-millions of dollars per year superstars that are so highly publicized in professional sports, but I would match the heart of the amateur against the professional any day.

I suppose I am some form of a dinosaur in coaching. The era, from which I hail, if you disrespected the coach, the seat next to him became your reserved seat.

Perhaps that’s the answer. Owners stand by your coaches. You hired them to coach. Sure, you made significant investments in the athletes, but what does it matter if you are losing. The bleacher seats will be empty either way. Empower your leaders to lead and bench the prima-donna until they comply with the coach.

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