During the last few weeks I have spoken with several generations of high school and college coaches. They were at all experience levels from first year to 30-plus years in the business. They were both women and men and truly dedicated to the coaching profession.
My question to all of them has been, “Is it harder to coach in today’s social environment?”
Every one of them responded yes. It is very tough to coach in today’s world. The question came to mind because of the negative press dealt to Michigan State men’s basketball coach Tom Izzo for getting in the face of one of his players who admittedly did not hustle down the floor in a big NCAA Tournament game. Izzo is a coaching legend and an icon at Michigan State. He comes from an old school philosophy of hard work and doing the right things in a team setting.
I watched the confrontation many times. It was true, Izzo was animated but he has been animated throughout his entire career. Everything from race to religion was discussed in describing the situation. To me it was nothing more than a coach making the point that you better hustle every time you step on the court.
A coach has to make an adjustment in different times, and in a leadership role, however, that coach deserves to be able to coach to his or her personality, and the athlete needs to understand the expectations of the coach for them and the team.
The definition of a coach is a person involved in the direction, instruction and training of the operations of a sports team or of individual sports people. A coach may also be a teacher and is often much more than that to players. A coach must be fair and honest with his or her athletes.
I agree with the assessment of the Izzo situation by legendary University of Connecticut women’s head basketball coach Geno Auriemma. He shared with the press that coaches in this day and age are afraid to coach their athletes due to all the outside opinions and questions that are voiced. I agree 100 percent.
Individuals in the current coaching world need to be cognizant of the norms of today but still be able to steer the players. They are human and they will make mistakes, but they can never be afraid of doing what they think is best for the team and individual athletes. Tough love does apply in many cases between athletes and coaches. The coaches I loved the most were the ones who were fair and honest and could deliver even when you needed a kick in the backside.
Great coaches have the ability to motivate in a positive way and can be tough when it is appropriate. We are in a society that has a need to apply some deeper meaning to nearly everything that occurs. I have yet to meet a coach of any genre and any level who does not want the athlete and team to be successful.
If a coach goes overboard it should be addressed, but they should be free to coach without having their hands tied. Great athletic programs have great coaches. Those coaches understand the difference between coaching and being disrespectful. If coaches are fair, honest and consistent, they deserve to coach their teams with a style that works best for the team.
Athletes have the right to choose which team they prefer to be a part of and the right to say no thank you if they disagree with the coaching philosophy. Situations involving conflict do not have to be discussed over and over again.
• The quote of the week comes from former NBA coach Cotton Fitzsimmons: “I have a basic philosophy that I’ve tried to follow during my coaching career. Whether you’re winning or losing, it is important to always be yourself. You can’t change because of the circumstances around you.”
– Tim Crone, a William Chrisman High School graduate, is a former activities director and coach for Blue Springs High School and is a host of a weekly radio show, “Off the Wall with Tim Crone,” on KCWJ (1030 AM) 6 p.m. every Monday. He writes a weekly column for The Examiner. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.