So, yeah, there’s this thing going on: Players saying their coaches are so mean they’re either leaving their programs or suing them.
Illinois/Bollant: Bollant speaks for the first time since allegations
Duke/McCallie: Duke investigating McCallie’s basketball program
Kentucky/Mitchell: The Kentucky women’s basketball crisis and the battle over culture
College of Charleston/Jackson: Former women’s basketball player sues College of Charleston
First, I’m not quite sure I’m loving some of this “kids these days” reactions. Not only did we raise these kids, but we created the environment they’re playing in: travel teams, *fillintheblanksportscompany* gear, pretty locker rooms, rating systems and a society that seems to value athletic skill over personal virtue.
Who wouldn’t struggle to keep their head on straight when faced by that wave of privilege?
“Kids these days” is the reality you’re dealing with. It IS a different world – and looking back to the “golden” past (some of it real, some of it mythologized) won’t help you figure out what actions you need to take with the players in front of you.
Second, it smacks of the dismissive “why don’t they just suck it up and get over it” mentality that undermines those who try to speak up against abuse, it whatever form it takes (Summitt/LaTech & Chinn/FIU come to mind). It moves to accepting the phrase “PC” as a pejorative.
For me, “politically correct” is the radical assumption that an individual can recognize that there are power dynamics in the world and that they are manifested in language and behavior. For me, being sensitive to those those dynamics doesn’t make you weak. It challenges me to be thoughtful and intentional in my practice. It asks me to consider the consequences of my actions before and after I take them. It’s hard and annoying and exhilarating and confusing and, sometimes, threatening and humiliating as I recognize behavior and patterns that don’t necessarily fill me with pride.
Coaches are often held up as educators. Now, there are all sorts of educators – with different styles and pedagogy. (And I’m guessing that we can agree that some of what happens in a gym would be unacceptable in a classroom – that, itself, is an interesting discussion). And, as educators, it’s not just what you know. How you share it makes a difference, too, because learning is an emotional, physical and intellectual process.
Coaches know this – you often hear them talking about “what works for this player doesn’t work for that player.” Sometimes it’s called “pushing buttons.”
Well, sometimes the buttons we push are the wrong buttons. And as educators… as the adults in the room, it’s on us to reflect, “What was my role? If I could do it over again, could I have done it differently? How will this impact my decisions and practice moving forward?”
Hey, maybe you wouldn’t change a thing. And please, don’t mistake my intent. I’m not advocating that folks avoid honesty, hard truths, pushing folks, being direct etc. Again, being sensitive and respectful is. not. being. weak. In fact, it requires a certain amount of courage to say, “Huh. By my actions, I made someone feel a certain way. Am I okay with that?”
How you answer that question determines your next steps.