Grin and Bear It. Glare and Bare All
There's people who "get" sports and those who really don't. The ones who do are people who grasp the concept that it is more than just a "game". Sports, specifically ones that involve a team, are incredible in their inspiring of dignity and character growth, qualities that are both sought after and praised in workplace environments. Athletes are generally perceived as competitive, intense individuals, and obviously are to varying degrees, but like any group of individuals, should not be categorized so swiftly.
What all true athletes do have in common is their passion for the game they play, whichever one it may be. Many athletes utilize sports as a fun, healthy outlet. I hope you as a coach are not so detached that you so easily forget that these are kids who are going through things, whether or not you deem those things important or not. Whether a kid's stresses are universal or appear minimal in your eyes, that does not detract from what the kid is feeling at the moment. There are many occasions where kids simply do not vocalize their inner turmoil, for reasons ranging from shame and embarrassment, to in the case for many males, the conditioning to believe they must appear stoic at all times. I understand not all situations will be brought to your attention, but I expect you, as the coach, to have enough compassion and common sense to take these things into consideration.
To you they are young men who can and should take every insult and blatant attempt to put them down. To me, as a sibling, they are just kids trying their best to navigate a tough world and happen to find a great source of enjoyment playing a sport they absolutely love, and I can't let you take that from them. It's time for you to put some decency into your methods. Treat them as humans and give the same respect you demand. Your job is to improve their work ethic and skills, not actively attempt to ruin their confidence. Have you ever wondered how successful of a coach you truly are? And I'm talking about actual success, not championship titles, winning records or how many All-American's you have in a season. Do your old players come back to visit you? Do your old players reach out via a quick text, email or phone call? Years later, after you no longer have an immediate impact on their playing time, have you ever been thanked by old players of yours for the positive influence you've had on their lives? Are you the type of coach you'd want your own children to have?
While there's people who don't get sports, there's also coaches who don't get real life. As a coach, you too need to take into account that it's more than a game, and you're a coach and role model on and off the field. As you work tirelessly to instill integrity into your team, it is essential that integrity is evident starting at the top, reflecting the coaching staff as a whole. It is paramount that as the coach you do not compromise your own integrity, for example, don't allow monetary donations to cloud your judgment (though, no dignified coach would admit to such shameful behavior). Perhaps in the future don't try to use petty mind games to disband the "brothers" in the locker room prior to the season even starting. If you receive knowledge of people disrespecting your players in public or say, the stands, make it aware that you do not condone such behavior, though instating and enforcing a Code of Conduct could eliminate an occurrence like that. Not continuously lying and breaking promises to your players could eliminate a lot of frustration as well. Any experienced coach is well aware that leaders are born, not made. It's your turn to lead the way.
Despite the immediate gratification that would follow calling you distasteful names and questioning your bizarre tactics, I chose to articulate a very real, very neglected emotional aspect of sports from a different perspective. I acknowledge as a sister I see a more tender, vulnerable side to these kids but I cannot fathom the purposeful cruelty directed at someone I care so much for. Society teaches young men that expression of emotion is equated to weakness, but I don't agree. It takes a strong individual to express and stand up for himself, especially if he feels as though he's being treated unjust, even if it's by an intimidating coach.
I watch my brother leave your program a different person. Friendships and memories have been made, respect has been earned and lost, and valuable lessons have been both taught and learned. You don't always have to like your teammates on a personal level but you must work together nonetheless. Politics and the power of money bleed into every aspect of life, and you have to deal with it. Adults are not always right, and don't always do the right thing because like kids, you the coach are imperfect and human.
Overall, this is a simple reminder to be more aware of your influence on your players, both positive and negative.
pro communi utilitate communitatis,
An Athlete's Sister