‘Old School’ Coaching

I revisited a tweet from our friends at Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) and it got my angst up.  Back in September, PCA tweeted about being mentioned in a San Diego Times Union Tribune article about ‘Old School’ coaching.  Although the article is about high school coaches, I think there are some aspects that apply to youth recreational sports coaches.  After reading the article again, I was caught by:

  • The coaches seem to lament they can’t ‘get away’ with things because “you never know who’s watching”; referring to the prevalence now of cell phone cameras.  So, the reason coaches shouldn’t behave inappropriately with the kids entrusted to them is because it might get caught on camera!?!?  Whatever happened to doing the right thing because it is the right thing?  C.S. Lewis said that “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching”.
  • And what is this behavior that these old school coaches were getting away with?  Being a “yeller and screamer”; grabbing face masks; berating players, and pushing them away.  The article goes on, “No longer can a coach blow his top or shove a player or drop F-bombs and not expect repercussions”.  NO LONGER!?!?  How in the world was this tolerated in the first place?

PCA gets its mention as their Chief Impact Officer, Tina Syer, explains that PCA espouses the goals of coaches should be #1 Win Games and #2 Teach Life Lessons.  This is where PCA and I disagree slightly.  I recognize that in high school sports – as is often the case in travel/select sports – there is an emphasis on winning games and tournaments.  However, I believe that high school coaches, as part of an educational institution, ought to have developing young people and teaching life lessons as at least an equal, if not higher, goal than winning.

Some would argue that in high school the young people are on the verge of adulthood and should be introduced to the cold, hard reality that is life.  As I’ve said before, I believe we should stop having our kids grow up so fast.  Treating high school kids – or worse, youth recreational sports athletes – like college or professional coaches would treat their athletes is not appropriate.  High school is a transitional time for these teenagers.  High school coaches, as the article points out, have a very important job and often are a “father figure and a counselor”.  Fathers and counselors often show tough love, sure; but, much of the ‘old school’ behavior described in the article goes beyond tough love and should never have been OK.


Hustle & Attitude coaches focus on creating a positive environment for the athletes they coach.  They don’t yell at the kids.  They don’t berate them.  They teach and encourage.  Kids have a positive experience and want to play again when their coaches don’t employ the ‘old school’ tactics mentioned in the article.

2 thoughts on “‘Old School’ Coaching

    1. Agree – and you’re a good example that the kinds of things mentioned in the article were never OK. You coached me in several of my sports as a kid and never yelled, cursed, or grabbed the kids.

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