A college basketball coach recently got fired after a video emerged of him shoving players, throwing basketballs, and unleashing homophobic rants on a player. I’ve never understood the whole motivate-me-by-putting-me-down thing you frequently see in coaches. After all, it’s just a game, not a bondage session with a dominatrix who’s training you to submit.
In high school I had a hockey coach nicknamed Muddy. Muddy was a twitchy, short guy with a testy demeanor. Whenever we were losing a game, which was most of the time, Muddy would burst into our locker room between periods and bark “God damn it guys…” in a high pitched shriek. We’d all lower our heads in remorse and wait out Muddy’s condemnation-heavy “motivational” speech. After he stomped back out, we’d return to discussing the upcoming weekend kegger.
Muddy’s angst over our lack of discipline and determination wasn’t limited to just games. One day we had a “tip-in” drill at practice. My friend Jim stood at the blue line while Greg stood in the corner with the puck. The objective was for Greg to pass the puck to Jim and then sprint to the front of the net. He would stop, face Jim, and wait for him to shoot the puck along the ice. Greg would then try to deflect it past the goalie.
So Greg passed the puck to Jim. He sprinted to the net, stopped, and waited. Jim reared his stick back and then slammed the puck. It roared through the air and hit Greg in the metal face cage, right between the eyes. Everyone thought it was hilarious, except Muddy. And Greg.
This happened around the time Muddy jumped into a One-On-One drill with a kid nicknamed Spaz. The idea was for Muddy to skate backwards, playing defense, while his opponent tried to fake around him and skate to the net unencumbered. I watched the pair as they headed down the ice. Muddy glided backwards while Spaz came at him, legs and arms flying in all direction as he tried to stay upright on his skates. The pair crossed the blue line, which was the point where Spaz was supposed to make his move. But Spaz stopped, sending a shower of ice chips into the air, and reared back his stick. He unleashed a slap shot. A pair of sweatpants is no match for a hurtling puck. Muddy went down with a high-pitched howl, clutching his shin.
You know what coaches always say: No pain, no gain.
Yes, we had a problem with slap shots. We were teenagers after all. And we were there to have fun. Winning was but a secondary consideration.
This is a long way of saying that I hope this college coach doesn’t end up coaching high-school basketball. Because it only gets “worse” the farther down you go.