A Frustrating Situation!

By Dave Hanks

It’s an athletic competition and the atmosphere is charged with anticipation and foreboding. It’s a high school duel wrestling meet. I sit by my daughter and involve myself with her concerns - concerns which affect me deeply. Her son, my grandson, is nervously pacing about behind the mats and limbering-up in preparation for his upcoming match. My heart bleeds for him! He wants so badly to do well – to have recognition of his success and encouragement from his coach. But the man is cold and hostile toward him. I can not fathom why.

My memory goes back to times past - memories of my athletic experiences - memories of coaching experiences - now in the distant past. I recall a college football coach that was never pleased with my efforts, who once slapped me across the head because he thought that would motivate me. He also instructed me to go all out in a dummy scrimmage at practice one day. It resulted in a season-ending injury to a teammate. The head coach was “all over” me, but the real culprit refused to speak up, and he let me take the blame.

My memory goes back to my wrestling coach. He let me be me, without any criticism. He was friendly and even said positive things occasionally. He wasn’t very knowledgeable about wrestling, but I enjoyed success in spite of it.

Three high school football coaching colleagues stand out for different reasons. One was constantly “cussing” the players and “running” them down. He milked all the fun and joy from the game. Needless to say, he won only one game in two years. He was fired. The second coach criticized a boy so intently that he brought the kid to tears. The kid quit the team and the team was the worse for it. These two examples are in contrast to the third coach, who was always positive and made the boys eager to come to practice.

It is evident that a coach is automatically looked up to. He has to be a real “skunk” to destroy that trust that is afforded him. I tried the tough route one year, on the advice of others, and that year was a disaster! I quickly changed my approach. I learned that I could actually feel close toward my wrestlers. I was always amazed at the amount of effort they would put forth at my urgings. To this day there is an affectionate rapport between us.

I return to the present. The coach totally ignores my grandson. He gives him no solace. He him gives him no encouragement. He gives him no instruction, either before or during his match. The match ends quickly, as my grandson shoots across the mat to take his opponent down and quickly pin him. You’d think his coach would be pleased, but no, only stony silence and dissatisfied looks greet him. I am told that “belittling” of my grandson and others occurs even at practice sessions. What is the matter with the guy? The man’s a destroyer of kids. Why do schools put up with men like him? Isn’t it his job to build and not the other way around? Hopefully my grandson can fight through this blanket of hostility and learn to carry on in spite of the atmosphere that surrounds him.

The great question is why are there so many coaches that don’t learn the true lessons of what motivates? The negative approach destroys. The positive approach builds. That’s why some coaching changes result in success with the same group of athletes that had experienced failure previously.

Winning aside, it seems to me that the number one priority should be to build kids up and make them into better people. Those that don’t make an honest effort to do this should be “ridden out of town on a rail!”

Education systems should be no place (especially at younger levels) for those leaders that destroy youthful ideals and goals!