Do you know what's happening during your child's practices?


By now you've seen the shocking footage of Mike Rice, the recently ousted basketball coach at Rutgers, firing basketballs and slinging nasty slurs at his players during practices.

Clearly, Rice has some anger issues which, along with the pressure-packed job of coaching a Division I revenue-producing sport, formed a toxic combination that sparked his off-the-charts behavior and ultimately led to his downfall.

Rice desperately wanted to lead a winning program, but he chose to kick decent human behavior to the curb in pursuit of victories.

It happens all the time, but unfortunately this type of behavior isn't confined to just big-time collegiate athletics.

You can find coaches resorting to name calling and generally treating players atrociously at all levels of youth sports, too.

Just a couple months ago a youth hockey coach in British Columbia was handed a 15-day jail sentence for purposely sticking out his foot in the post-game handshake line, which sent two kids tumbling to the ice from the opposing team. A 13-year-old broke his wrist bracing for the unexpected fall.

The trip was caught on video and has garnered more than two million hits on YouTube.

As horrific as that behavior was, equally appalling were the reports that the coach called the boy "twinkle toes" and insulted his skating ability to the point that the youngster was in tears during the game.

Sometimes the actions of coaches get caught on video for all to see – allowing us to watch, dissect, evaluate and form opinions – but often unacceptable behavior goes undetected when it occurs during a mid-week practice while moms and dads are juggling schedules and can't be present all the time.  

Think about it: While the overwhelming majority of today's volunteer coaches do incredible jobs connecting with kids and making their experiences fun and memorable for all the right reasons, there will always be those coaches who, blinded by the pursuit of first-place trophies and boosting their already over-inflated egos, will cause enormous damage to the kids under their care.

Whether it's inappropriate comments that pierce self-esteem, intimidating tactics that strike fear or physical attacks that produce pain, these behaviors have absolutely no place in youth sports.

I hope what happened at Rutgers serves as a reminder to us all to be vigilant of our youth sports programs and the volunteers coaching in them.

After all, do you want your youngster playing for the next Mike Rice out there?

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the National Alliance for Youth Sports.

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