By Denis House
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
Respect is a funny thing. It’s something everyone would love to have, but not everyone is willing to work for it. Like most things in life, respect is not free. You have to earn it.
Some folks have to work harder than others, but it’s a goal most of us strive for. As a writer, I want to be respected by my readers and my peers. I don’t have to be liked. Love me or loathe me, it’s your choice. But I hope you respect me, as I try to respect all my readers and those I cover in the world of sports.
But like I said earlier, respect has to be earned.
Coaches demand respect from their players. As authority figures usually they deserve nothing less. But just because they are in a position of authority doesn’t mean respect automatically comes.
No, coaches have to earn a player’s respect, and vice versa. Only then can the two work together as a cohesive unit.
I have been around many coaches, stood on many sidelines and sat in many dugouts over the course of my newspaper career. I have seen coaches rant and rave. I have seen players walk off teams in disgust. I’ve seen parents confront coaches and players mock coaches and laugh behind their backs. I’ve seen some truly horrendous things and some very uplifting things.
Today’s athletes are much different than they were as little as 20 years ago. Used to be a coach could ask a player to do almost anything and they would, without question. I remember talking to a former standout football player once about his relationship with his high school coach.
“Coach never really liked me,” he said. “Some players, if he asked them to, would run head-first into a wall, without question. But I would always ask him why he wanted me to do something. He didn’t like that.”
Today’s athletes want to know why they are asked to do something. It’s just that way in today’s society.
I do believe the days of yelling, screaming and cussing to get something through to a player are fading fast, and that’s probably a good thing. You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar, as the old saying goes.
I’m not saying to baby players. A coach still has to be an authority figure. And a coach will have to raise their voice every once and a while. Just like teachers do. Coaches need to remember that they are teachers, too. Just because they aren’t in the classroom doesn’t mean they aren’t teaching. You wouldn’t yell, scream and cuss at a student who misses an answer in the classroom, so why should you be allowed to do it when coaching?
The answer is, you shouldn’t. These are still teenage children we are talking about. As a coach you should be someone a player looks up to, not down at. The next time you get in a player’s face and go off, stop and think how you would feel if your boss did this to you.
Like I said earlier, respect is a two-way street. Players, if you want to be respected by your coaches you have to earn it. We are taught as children to respect our elders. Listen when they are trying to tell you something. Be on time to practices, and work hard at practice. And never, ever, ever, call a coach by their first name. You aren’t showing them any respect by doing this, and coaches, you lose respect when you allow players to do this. Just like before, students don’t call their teachers by their first name, and it shouldn’t be any different just because you aren’t in the classroom. You aren’t their friend. You are their coach.
I’ve written about this before, but I felt like it needed to be addressed again.
Can you imagine Dan Issel calling Coach Rupp “Adolph”? Or Isiah Thomas calling Coach Knight “Bobby”? I’m pretty sure Raymond Reed was never addressed by his first name by any of his players. Heck, I think they still call him “coach.”
Respect your players, and they will respect you back. It’s as simple as that.