All athletes at some time have a love-hate relationship with their coach. In recent years, there have been noted cases of coaches being fired for being abusive. Coaches are by their nature intense but there may come a time when that intensity becomes abusive.
A coach who is abusive has one or more of the following traits:
- Pushes athletes beyond levels that are physically safe.
- Forces athletes to play through injuries which could result in serious long-term health effects.
- Uses a demeaning coaching style which is intended to belittle rather than to develop the athlete.
- Has limited concern for the athlete beyond their athletic contributions. Provides minimal concern for the athlete’s future.
It’s tough for an athlete to deal with an abusive coach. There’s always a concern for their scholarship and playing time. Coaches can also have a negative impact on how others view the athlete.
Here’s what you can do if you have an abusive coach.
- Talk privately with teammates you respect and trust. You need to be sure that you are not overreacting to your coach. It’s also good to talk with athletes who have finished their athletic eligibility. See how these athletes view your coach.
- Find a few athletes who share your concerns. Work with these teammates to develop a list of concerns. Focus on those concerns which are described above. Provide specific examples to support your concerns.
- Identify a person you can approach about your concerns. The person will be the athletic director or a designated person for athletic issues.
- Meet with the person identified in Step 3 to discuss your issues. Present your concerns in a calm, non-threatening manner. Have a specific outcome you want to achieve. Don’t leave the meeting without specific next steps to address your concerns.
- If there is no follow through on your concerns, take your concerns to the president of the university. This is the point when you and your teammates need to unite should your concerns not get addressed. Uniting in this case can involve one or more of the following:
- Going public with your concerns.
- Refusing to participate in non-competition events.
- Refusing to practice.
- Refusing to participate in competitions.
Step 5 is a drastic step that most universities want to avoid at all costs. Generally, your issues will be adequately addressed in Steps 3 or 4.