Opinions // Coaches can ruin an athlete’s love for a sport


Mackenzie Kraft, Journalism Student

Have you ever played a sport and just immediately fell in love with it, but years later you have a coach who just ruins your passion and love for the sport?

When you are a part of an athletic team, whether it’s school-related or a random facility by your house, once you’ve been doing your sport long enough you’ll have a coach or two (or more) that drives you crazy and makes you hate the sport you once loved. Any athlete that has played a sport for a long time can tell you no matter how long they played the sport, no matter how hard you work towards winning, that one coach can make everything change.

I have been in a sport since I was three years old; I’m a cheerleader for an all-star program and for my high school team. I have had my fair share of good coaches and bad coaches.

I’ll give it to all the coaches out there, it’s not easy to coach. That itself takes a lot of work and motivation to help make your team a winning team. Some coaches though, take it too far and are too hard on their athletes. They yell and scream at them for making a small mistake, in return making the athlete worried about making mistakes granting less motivation and the strive to do good. A coach’s responsibility is to be a mentor for every single one of their athletes; that’s hard when one of them makes a mistake and you go off the deep end with them.

Coaching is a privilege and when a coach takes advantage of that privilege it can get nasty. You have coaches who take advantage of their privilege mentally, physically, and/or sexually. When a coach has favorites and bluntly shows off the favoritism it makes the team as a whole divided, especially when you aren’t a coach’s favorite. The coach is extra mean and rude to you, which can lead to the athletes feeling worthless and belittled for all the diminishing words.

I had a coach who would scream and yell at me backstage, on the warm-up floors for not throwing a skill. I had another coach tell me constantly to quit because I would never be good. That same coach also made fun of me for my weight and gave me nicknames like Big Mac which caused me to stop eating and develop an eating disorder and have really bad body dysmorphia even years later. I’ve had coaches who had their favorites and if you weren’t one they did not care one bit about you.

Then there are the coaches who physically push, hit, smack, spit, etc. Doing that to an athlete not only will make them feel afraid but can also cause long term damage mentally and physically depending on how bad it got. Coaches who physically abuse their athletes obviously deserve to be fired but also charges should be pressed because in most cases the athlete is still a child, meaning it’s child abuse.

One sixteen-year-old quarterback said, “Going into high school I was a standout athlete with high confidence but after my freshman year I started to lose interest. It just wasn’t fun anymore. I hated practice because I was always worrying about messing up and being embarrassed by my coach. In games I worried about what he would say or do if I made a mistake, so I became less aggressive…” According to Sports Psychology Today, this sixteen-year-old speaking on behalf of what he endured by the hands of his coach experienced mental and possible physical abuse.

Then there are the coaches who really take advantage of their power and over-sexualize there athletes, sexually harass, or even sexually assault them. There are cheer coaches who make their cheerleaders wear sexually appealing clothes that can cause an inappropriate response such as cat-calling, assaults, gropings and possibly worse. Cheerleading and dance are one of the most over-sexualized sports due to what they are made to wear, according to Chicago Sun Times.

When I was 17 years old, I had a new coach who showed me a lot of attention. I thought it was because I was his favorite but he started to flirt every chance he got and would make me stay after practices to “tumble” when he just wanted to talk about inappropriate topics coaches shouldn’t be talking about to their athletes. When I turned 18 he asked me out twice and got furious when I said no.

The same coach would spot me, which is what coaches do in tumbling to help the athlete when learning a new skill, and would grab/touch me in inappropriate spots. When spotting, your hands have specific areas to go to and when you’re the one being spotted you can tell when it was by accident or on purpose and he would purposely do it; he would do every time he spotted me and when I told him no he forced me to do it anyway because “he was the coach and I was the athlete”.

Every time I left the gym I would cry because of the way he made me feel. I started having panic attacks before each practice and I stopped socializing with everyone, hoping he wouldn’t talk or try to spot me.

I do realize that there are exceptional coaches out there that truly make differences in the kids they coach. Those coaches know how to communicate properly with his/her athletes, they can make a bad experience into a good one, they may be able to help their athletes love the sport again, and they can change an athletes mind about quitting.

I’ve had a few coaches who have been absolutely amazing to me, they never gave up on me even when I have given up on myself, they helped me gain confidence in myself, they showed me what a good coach could look like, they supported every decisions I’ve made, and most importantly, they taught me how to love my sport again.

Yes, it is ultimately the athlete’s decision to quit and I know some people think the coaches aren’t a reason and that the athlete just isn’t tough enough. But some sports have a more mental-like structure than physical and if a coach is being a bully or abusing their power and athletes it can make anyone no matter how old or young, how strong or weak want to quit.

Future coaches should be required to take specific classes for certain sports, so they can be knowledgeable about what to expect and how to handle situations properly. Other things that may help are extensive background checks on all coaches no matter how popular they are, just to make sure all athletes are safe from any type of abuse. Organizations, schools, and companies that employee coaches should have to do the same things coaches have to do, to make sure children are in a safe, nurturing, and loving environment