Kansas State basketball coach Frank Martin today apologized for whacking a kid on the arm with the back of his open hand from frustration at a kids poor play. Maybe he felt like he had to because just a month before a coach had to resign for actions that did not include physical contact and other coaches have been dismissed for physicial altercations. Kansas football coach Mark Mangino had to resign amidst charges of verbal, mental and emotional abuse. University of South Florida head football coach Jim Leavitt was fired for allegedly grabbing a player by the throat. And of course, Texas Tech head football coach Mike Leach was fired following events surrounding charges that he made a player stand in a dark room.
These types of things are new, but then again they are to some extent. Woody Hayes was an extremely successful coach and many of his former players are very grateful for what they learned under the tough coach. But, Hayes often displayed childish and foolish behaviour during games and in 1978, a national TV audience witnessed Hayes’s punching an opposing player after the opponent made a key interception. The 65-year-old Hayes was fired and never coached again. Arizona State head coach Frank Kush was fired after a player filed suit alleging that he punched the player in the mouth following a lousy punt in a game. But, Kush was acquitted in the lawsuit, the team plays on a field named for him, there is a bronze statue of Kush outside the stadium and in 2000, Kush was hired by the university as a full-time special assistant to the athletic director.
Then, of course, there is Bob Knight who was fired at Indiana following several accusations of mistreatment of players. He had been charged with grabbing a player by the throat in practice. But, he wasn’t fired for that. Bob Knight instead was fired for violating a “zero tolerance” policy when a 19-year-old kid walked past him and said “hey, what’s up, Knight?” Coach then grabbed the kid by the arm and lectured him about manners. Two years later, Knight was back coaching at Texas Tech, the same place that just fired Mike Leach.
When I played sports in Junior High and High School, the coaches were tough. I remember in Jr. High basketball we had to shoot free throws at the end of practice and for every one out of the final ten that we shot that we missed, we got a swat. In fact, it was a normal part of discipline for boys to get swats. Once, a girl protested that it wasn’t fair that a boy could get three swats and be done but girls had to come to Saturday detention, which was when a misbehaving student had to come to school on Saturday for either an entire day or half day. So, the school agreed it was discriminatory and the girl got her swats. I also had an Industrial Arts teacher who said we didn’t get any discipline at home. He was a former Marine Drill Instructor so he took us out on the field every day for a week and made us march.
In football practice, if a guy messed up a play, the coach would have everyone on the team jump on the offending player in a dog pile. For recreation, we played dirty basketball, in which there were no such thing as a foul.
In high school football practice, I once had a head to head hit with another player and my helmet broke in half. It was off to the locker room for a new helmet and then back on the field. Coaches regularly grabbed us by the face mask to get our attention. Once, we were in this drill in which there was a board laid on the ground. The board was a 2 x 6 from the grandstands and the two players faced each other from either end and did battle with each one having to keep their feet on either side of the board. I went up against Greg Graves, who was twice as big as me. He destroyed me. I had to go against him 10 times in a row with my face getting planted in the ground every time. Talk about humiliation. Then of course, there was off-season stick fights in which two opponents beat each other with long sticks that were padded on the ends.
Things changed fast. By the time I had graduated college, there was no such thing as swats any more. My friend was a Junior High coach and he told me of a girl giving a teacher a cake laced with Ex-Lax. They began with threatening suspension. The parent protested and the school knuckled under. I don’t know what the ultimate outcome was except that the school finally said that the girl had to apologize and that was that…but the parent objected to that saying, “my daughter is not going to kiss ass to anyone.” Coach also had a kid who wouldn’t dress out for gym class and wouldn’t move from the floor to the stands. The kid wouldn’t go to the principal’s office. Coach threatened to carry him to the principal when the kid said if he did he’d be fired. Coach picked up the kid with one arm and carried him. Coach was almost fired for touching the kid. In some colleges today, a student may file a grievance against an instructor who does something as heinous as assigning homework and then doesn’t grade it. In the workplace, it can also be difficult just to be nice. I once worked at a place in which you could be fired for complementing a woman, or man, for their appearance. You were to look your fellow employees in the eye at all times and not to give opinion regarding appearances in any fashion.
John Adams often warned of the feminization of America. He argued with his wife Abigail in letters once referring to the “despotism of the petticoat.” But, I’m not so sure that Adams would approve of physical abuse of subordinates. The question of how to discipline children has been around a long time too. Mark Sullivan was a journalist in the late 19th and early 20th century. He wrote a book about the first 25 years of the century called Our Times. He wanted to give a contemporary history of the first quarter century from a journalist’s perspective. One of the things he speaks about is the movement to remove the switch from the hands of the headmaster in schools and the resulting poor deportment of the students. 75 years later, there were cries from conservatives to return corporal punishment to the classroom. But, I’m not so sure that we want to give others the right to beat our children. I was never harmed from the coaches swat board, but serious injury is too big of a risk to take in such instances.
However, the question does come up as to how far is too far the other way. A coach back hands a kid on the arm and he feels as if he must apologize. A coach loses a job for emotional abuse. How can one define that? It may be emotionally traumatic just to replace a player from a game. I once went into a game for a guy in the outfield…in the middle of the inning! Talk about embarrassing for the kid! He never started again…I did. Under some perspectives, that coach might have been liable for a lawsuit because that was pretty emotionally traumatic. It seems to me that there definitely should be disciplinary boundaries. Coaches, teachers and parents need to be more creative and not fall to the most primative methods. But, there also should be some boundaries the other way. I don’t know of anyone who agrees with not keeping score in kids games, but they do it all the time. Life is not equal. There are winners and losers. And that can be traumatic but its a fact. Many people use the “tough love” approach but it seems that approach may be going the way of the dinosaur.
Weather Bottom Line: We had some sunshine but it didn’t do too much good on Sunday. Temps only made it to the mid 20’s. If you look at the low temperature map above from Sunday morning, you can see what I was talking about. I was right but wrong. Clearly, the western part of the viewing area had clearing skies overnight. I had been trumpeting the possibility all week that clearing skies would take the mercury to near zero. In fact, Jasper in Dubois County did get down to zero with many other areas in the western part of the viewing area in low single digits. But, when you get to Louisville, the lows were in the mid teens. That is the difference that clouds can do.
Now, the clouds will be increasing again as another shortwave comes rolling down the trof from the northwest. I’m doubtful regarding the moisture but both the 12Z GFS and NAM call for about a half inch of snow for late Monday afternoon into Monday evening. Evening drive may be interesting. Previously, there had been some agreement of temperatures getting above freezing for the first time in 2010 by Tuesday afternoon but now the models say Thursday…which is closer to my two week old forecast of Jan 15. But, alas, I suspect that many people will be above freezing my Wednesday afternoon. Now, we do warm up to the low 40’s for the end of the week but there is an interesting feature that has shown up consistently. It’s a big low forming off of New Orleans. It migrates northeast. The track has been changing almost every model run. And half the time, cold air gets dragged down in response to this feature increasing our prospects for more snow on Sunday. But, it seems that in alternating runs, it runs the low up the Appalacians but keeps the cold air in Canada. This seems odd to me. I would think that we would get some cold air dragging down for Sunday. It’s not a huge pattern shift but just a short term event. I’m hoping that if it does happen, that an icing situation does not develop…that’s the one bit of weather that I hate…I don’t need that kind of excitement and neither do you.