In the three years I've been writing in this blog, this is the second time I've read and watched a case like this happen. The first time was actually a local occurrence, but that's not the case I will be talking about tonight. Recently, news and footage came to light about Rutgers' basketball coach Mike Rice. In the footage, he reportedly physically and verbally abused players by throwing balls at them, shoving them, and using gay slurs, among other questionable actions. This morning, it was announced that Rice had been relieved of his duties at Rutgers, and while this case continues, other patrons in the athletic department will be put under the microscope as to whether they had the knowledge of these actions before this or not.
After the announcement, Rice spoke out about his firing and apologized for his actions. Although that may have been a good "mea culpa" of sorts, the damage has already been done. Of course, you people will say "He already did it. It doesn't matter that he's sorry," but at the same time, he's cutting to the chase and not waiting until there's a much more extensive investigation on the matter. While it was a smart idea to stop the bleeding, a whole new can of worms is going to open, and we're going to be questioning the practices of coaches in every sport in every facility all over the country.
I understand you want to thicken the skin of the men, but there's a difference between being a man inducing fear within his teammates and a man confusing this action with venting anger and frustration. Sure, we've seen this all before with the stuff that Bobby Knight allegedly did. With that said, wouldn't you think that coaches would think twice about controlling their emotions during practices and during team meetings?
I understand that there are numerous methods to enforce discipline and authority in a competitive environment. Think of it this way: The coach is like a father (or in some cases a mother) to the athletes on the squad. If you're going to lead them to the Promised Land, do you think any sort of abuse like this is going to strengthen them, or do you think that it's actually going to invoke a fear of failure in them? While those sorts of studies have been mainly focused on children, it can also be applied to young adults in an adverse way. If there is constant abuse, there may be a massive drop in team morale, and it can negatively reinforce and increase the pounding from the coach in question. You could also apply the argument that the same thing happens in an abusive relationship--the coach "might not always be like that and is a really cool person," but regardless of that, there are still a couple of screws loose in the head.
The main counterargument in this case is the need to add pressure to the athletes to help them succeed and help them tune out any noise affecting their game play. However, this line gets totally blurred once said line gets crossed. You have to ask yourself: "How much is too much?" What does it really take to enforce discipline and a toughening work ethic? I know you can't have a "Mr. Nice Guy" as a coach, but c'mon, this isn't the Spanish Inquisition. Doing something you love like sports shouldn't involve any kind of unnecessary torture that involves being called names and being attacked by someone trying to teach you. In fact, that would actually turn me off toward the sport. Issues with cliques and lack of ability aside, a negative reception from someone like a coach would actually wreck my liking of any kind of sport. It's almost as if you couldn't win at earning any sort of praise because it would get thrown out the window at the drop of a hat. This could be different for college student-athletes--I never progressed past junior varsity in high school--but I can tell you from experience that the coaches I had truly made a difference in how I played and the satisfaction I got from the way I played.
If I had to put up with an abusive coach, I would feel really horrible once the news gets out. Something like this can be considered a traumatic event; these instances definitely have to be tough to talk about to anyone, especially the media if that were to happen. Sure, people would want you to talk about these things, but that could also start a wildfire of speculation and a ton of unwarranted pain and scoping on you, your teammates, and maybe your friends and family. It's like a giant spider web being set on fire; regardless of where you fall in this web, you're getting some sort of attention whether you want it or not. And to put it lightly, it's going to suck. These events could lead to a lot of mental and emotional scarring on top of possible legal troubles that nobody has time for.
This could all start with one person making a lousy decision, people. All of this.
Remember Jerry Sandusky? It's not in the same category as this, but look at what happened to Penn State.
Exactly. One person can scar many people out of an extremely lousy decision and an extremely lousy temper.
Hopefully Rutgers can handle this case as swiftly as possible and the issues surrounding Mike Rice can be dealt with in a way that isn't sensationalized and blown out of proportion. There's a dark cloud over this school, but maybe they might have actually nipped something in the bud. Plus, they might have exposed underlying controversy involving coaching in other schools. This might actually be a more extensive problem than everyone else thought. Wouldn't you think so? I do. Coaching from this point forward will be under a close watch, and as rough as that sounds, it could possibly be for the best.
Sports psychiatry is a growing commodity in the world today. While it's mainly focused on the mental statuses of players, it could also work in the coaching realm too. Things like anger management and coach-to-player relationships could be a major topic to research and handle in the near future. Hey, you Sports Psychologists out there, get on this...and then you can give me a royalty check afterward. All of this stuff could be avoided; we would just need to figure out what makes these things happen and how these people causing the issue tick on the inside. I don't think that's too much to ask for.
Let's not cause any more scarring in athletes, the teams, the schools, and the people around them.