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A cautionary tale about youth sports

I came across the following story on Deadspin.com. I’ve never seen any coaches in Little League get this bad, but this should give all of us who are involved in youth sports something to think about. Warning: The following contains strong language.

When I was 11, I played my first year of organized basketball. Our coach was pretty cool. However one of the opposing coaches qualifies for this list [of a-hole coaches].

We had to play every team in our league twice. The first time we played this one team we sat and stared at their ‘top’ player. This guy was big. We had to look up to him. Our coach had to look up to him. The opposing coach had to look up to him. We figured this game for a loss right away. However, as many tall men have found out, being tall does not automatically qualify you as a basketball prodigy. The big guy was clumsy as all get out. My guess is he went to bed around 5’3″ and woke up the next day at 6’1″ and was still trying to figure out what happened.

The opposing coach had no sympathy for his player’s recent growth spurt. He demanded the guy dribble the ball down the court even though any of us could steal it from him. If the kid lost the ball the coach would yell out that he was ‘worthless’, ‘fucking worthless’, ‘fucking worthless bag of shit’ and so on. Our coach called a timeout and told us not to guard the guy coming up the court or steal the ball once he got there.

Now instead of calling the big guy useless, his coach is threatening to hurt him; “I will kick your ass if you do that again!”, “Trust me, what I will do will hurt your ass much more than it will hurt my foot”. My coach calls another timeout and calls the ref over. He asks the ref if there is anything he can do. The ref says ‘Well, I can give him a technical the next time.’

More abuse ensued and a technical is called. Now the opposing coach is really upset… not at the ref though. At the big guy who made the mistake that caused him to yell and get a technical. He slaps the kid. Not once… not twice… he slaps the kid to the floor. Blood was coming out the kids nose, cuts around his eyes; our whole team was shocked. My coach steps in and forces the guy away from the player. The ref tosses the coach from the game.

So the coach yells at the big guy, “I am leaving your worthless ass here! Your mom can just search for you” collects the rest of his team and leaves.

It’s not over.

The ref tells our coach that we won by forfeit so our coach arranges for us to play an intra-squad scrimmage and invites the big guy in to play with us. He was so happy he was crying. Our coach offered to give him a ride home after the game too. A few minutes go by and it is clear that the big guy had never been taught thing one about basketball. What he did know he picked up from watching people at other games. He improved pretty quickly. And then the police showed up.

The A-hole coach had called the police and said our coach had abused the player. The police came to arrest our coach, the ref, the kids, anyone in the vicinity really. Only after multiple witnesses gave the same story did they leave. I have no idea if they went back after the A-Hole coach.

Let’s hope they did. At least, let’s hope that the league took the team away from that coach. All coaches have their moments, but there is no place for that type of physical and emotional abuse in youth sports.

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