Fair Play: Coaches who handle kids should be careful

(This is my Fair Play column for Sun.Star Cebu's Feb. 28 edition)
ONE of the culture shocks I experienced when I first covered the sports scene in Cebu was the conduct of coaches toward their wards.
Having grown up in a sports environment down in Mindanao, where the coaches were your friends, teachers or an older neighborhood kid, insults were rarely heard on the field. What were prevalent were taunts kids threw against other kids.

But when I got here, it seemed, insults were the norm and if you’re not used to it you’d be surprised, or shocked, by some of the words used in age group sports.

I once asked why, and I guess it’s a chicken-and-egg thing. Some misguided coaches use them to show the parents that they are not afraid of their influence or their kids saying, “Once you show you’re afraid, you’re out of a job.” And besides, they said, we handled much, much worse when we were growing up. And, on the other side, parents don’t interfere for fear that they be labeled as those interfering sports parents who think they know it all in sports.

Once I was watching a 12-Under football match, with a dad, a known boxing personality here whose son was into football, and while we were talking, I heard their coach hurl invectives and insults that would make Tyson Fury blush. That tirade stopped our conversation, we took one glance at each other and stepped away, far from shouting-distance of the coach.

I told my friend that their coach was pretty high-strung and that coaches in their age groups should learn to handle kids much better.

Anyway, of course, that’s not to say that all coaches here hurl insults. Some don’t. And some who do have found a way to make some kids laugh at the way they are scolded, “Nag-mata ra man ka’g morning! Di na mu-duol ang bola kung tutukan.” Things like that.

I think coaches who undergo the proper seminars of the Philippine Football Federation and the Asian Football Confederation learn the proper way to encourage kids, and not discourage them.

I sure hope the age group football coaches in Cebu learn to handle kids much better, unless of course they want to experience this unique predicament an age group basketball coach of a private school is facing.

According to a report, for calling a 10-year-old, “Fat, gay, and a moron,” among other things, he’s now facing child abuse charges and that was just during training. The kid, who has since pulled out of the basketball team, allegedly suffered psychological trauma after getting insulted in front of the whole team, hence the filing of charges.

I’m not siding with the kid nor the coach, nor am I saying that it really happened. What I’m pointing out is that under a set-up where positive motivation is the norm, where even slow kids are encouraged to do better, this thing wouldn’t have happened. And isn’t that the purpose of sports?

This isn’t the Olympics or pro-boxing, where millionaires drink piss for that extra push. This is age group sports, where kids join because their friends are on the team.

Is it impossible? No. My childhood spent on sports was proof of that. Coaches can motivate.

As figures of authority, coaches must learn to handle that responsibility well and not bully a kid. Besides, there are a million and one ways to show parents that you are the authority in the field without having to insult their kids.

Acting like a responsible adult who knows what he is doing is one. That will stop parents from interfering.

So before it’s too late and before you have to spend time away from the field for court appearances, learn to handle kids better.


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