Firing of Rutgers Head Coach Puts Spotlight Back on Bullying

Firing of Rutgers Head Coach Puts Spotlight Back on Bullying

Mike Rice, the head coach of Rutgers University men’s basketball program was fired today as video of him physical and verbally abusing his players during practice surfaced. No other word came to mind after watching Mike Rice belittle and push around his players than “bully.” It is a reminder that bullying can occur in a variety of settings and the bullies themselves can be people entrusted to instill value and work ethic into young people.

Are coaches around the country actually behaving in this manner or is Mike Rice a rare exception? John Amaechi, a former NBA player, and contributor to CNN wrote an opinion piece today called Rutgers coach and sports’ bully culture revealing his take on what he calls a “damaging coaching culture.” It is well written and informative article.  Mr. Amaechi makes the case that our society has allowed an alternate standard of acceptable behavior in sports. Parents would run to the principle if their child informed them that the math teacher humiliated and screamed at their child in class, however; parents barely blink an eye when they watch their kids getting scolded on the bench after a bad play. In the context of sports and winning, this type of behavior is tolerated. Bullying can inflict long lasting psychological trauma in young people. Coaches should look to take more of a mentoring role rather than a win or go home attitude. Only a select few can reach the highest levels of sports and coaches can forget that it is not all about winning. Youth sports can be a good environment to instill useful values such as team work, dedication, and hard work.

As a parent, listen to your teenager if he or she brings up a coach’s behavior. Behaviors such as the use of intimidation, insults, ridicule, or humiliation can create anxiety, self-esteem issues, and even depression in teenagers.  In some cases it could cause the teenager to lose interest in a sport that they once enjoyed playing. Even if no physical abuse is happening, verbal abuse can cause psychological trauma.  Speaking to other parents of teens on the team could be a good way to find out if inappropriate behavior is occurring. If you feel that the coach is in fact bullying his players, ask for a private meeting with the school administration to discuss the issue.  Also make sure that your teenager knows that bullying, no matter who it comes from, is unacceptable and that they are not to blame for it.  

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By Miguel Brown