In a recent email I was appalled to read that a person had gone through the ranks of a sport (junior league, elementary school, middle school and high school) and had been exposed to abusive and foul talking coaches throughout their experience. Sure, I had heard of these sorts of incidences, but it really didn't hit home until I read this letter. What would possess a coach, a person that is suppose to a role model and mentor for young people, to resort to this sort of behavior? It's beyond my scope to try to get into a person's head, but I do know the effects this can have on the people that are on the receiving end of it. I tried to think that perhaps this was an isolated situation, but then I got to wondering, what if it wasn't? So, I'm writing this article.
With coaching comes responsibility; lots of responsibility. You are in a position where young people look up to you and are counting on you to help them learn and grow; not only as athletes, but as good, all around people. I interview a lot of coaches, and can say with confidence that the majority of the coaches I talk to are great mentors. They aren't in it for the money or for any self serving reasons. They do it because they love the kids, they love cheerleading, and most importantly, they love that they can teach these young people life lessons. They are changing the world, even if it is one cheerleader or squad at a time. But sadly, they aren't the ones that get the attention. It's the coaches that abuse their power or their position that we read about in the media. They are the ones that give coaches, and cheerleading in particular, a bad name.
It's true what they say about "one bad apple spoiling the whole bunch" and in coaching it's no different. If you're a coach or are considering coaching as a profession, think about the following:
- Young people learn by example. They are watching you, your behavior and how you deal with things. They will imitate you and will follow your lead.
- If what you have to say is so important, then you shouldn't have to scream, holler or spice it up with curse words. Let it stand on its own and give value to the message, not the delivery of the message.
- You are a mentor and a role model. Act like one at all times.
- You are a figure of authority and with that comes the conception that what you do is right and not to be questioned.
- In your position you fill many roles i.e. friend, parent figure, coach, teacher and so on. Value these relationships, don't abuse them.
- Young people are still growing not only physically, but emotionally too. What you say or do, can have long lasting effects on them in the future. Ensure those effects are positive ones and not negative.
- To gain respect, you have to earn it.
Now, you may be asking what if you encounter an abusive coach, what should you do? Follow these tips:
- If you're an adult, then you have a responsibility to say something. Either to the person or to their superior.
- If you're a young person, you should talk to a parent, teacher, or someone in a position of authority.
- Don't confuse criticism with abuse. Coaches are there to teach you and help you learn to do things correctly. There are going to be times when they have to criticize your skills. Know the difference.
Coaching is an honorable profession, take pride in your role as a coach and never do or say anything that will diminish or tarnish that role. Three cheers for coaches!