Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly? Make him be gone. Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Todd Monken? Axed. That youth soccer coach who once told your daughter she’s not the next Mia Hamm? Waaaaay back — gone!
That way, nobody will have to hear a harsh or negative word ever again.
Shawn Abel, a high school football coach in Collierville, Tenn., is the latest coach to face criticism for reading his team the riot act. In a recording that has gone viral, Abel attempts to set a new standard for four-letter words spouted in a tirade.
Abel reportedly resigned as Collierville coach after the school placed him on paid administrative leave. Evidently, it’s not OK to use bad words while teaching kids to knock out the teeth of guys on the other team.
When the firey John Chaney was the basketball coach at Temple University, assistant coach Dan Leibovitz counseled players to ignore the adult language Chaney berated them with and instead focus on the content of what Chaney was saying. Somewhere amid the F-bombs was useful advice, Leibovitz noted, from the coach who retired with 741 career wins.
High school coaches face a more stringent set of rules, of course, because the kids are younger and coaching is not, in almost all cases, their primary employment. Players choose their colleges, and if they don’t like it, they can transfer; most high school players don’t have their choice of schools, and if enough of them are unhappy, their tax- or tuition-paying parents can make sure the coach is the one to go.
More and more often, though, it now seems like parents are employing the nuclear option of pulling their kids out of schools and enrolling them elsewhere if they don’t feel their babies’ athletic needs are being met.
Using the Leibovitz Method to analyze the outburst, that’s exactly what Abel is getting at.
“You want to do your own thing,” Abel is saying. “That’s been our problem all year. It isn’t age. It isn’t injury. It isn’t the officials. It’s individuality.
“That’s why half of you leave after eighth grade. That’s why you go somewhere else. ‘Because I don’t get mine.’ That’s exactly what it is, and that’s why we’re where we are right now.”
Minus a few exclamation points and curse words, that’s the crux of Abel’s speech, word for word. Is it expressed in a manner unbecoming of an Advanced Placement pre-calculus teacher? Sure. But there are no physical threats, no racial epithets, no personal insults of something the players can’t control (all of which would justify a dismissal or suspension, by the way).
In a moment that is all too rare in high school sports, a coach stopped talking merely about tackling and blocking and told his players that running away from a situation that doesn’t personally work out for them is a poor way to start their adult lives. It’s an important message, but thanks to his limited yet colorful vocabulary, Abel’s not the coach anymore.
So, who’s next?
Thumbnail photo via The Commercial Appeal