This spring, I followed two athletes before their seasons began and after they ended. The results were astounding since both athletes had the same reasons for feeling the way they do towards their respective sports. Both identities and their sport will be kept private, we will refer to them as Athlete A and Athlete B.
Let’s look at Athlete A first.
Athlete A is a high school aged student who, at the beginning of their season, was ecstatic to have a normal season for the first time since 2019. “A” said at the beginning of their season that, “I am so excited to finally have some normalcy when it comes to my sport, but I am a tad nervous. How good will I be still if I have lost two spring’s worth of my sport?”
Athlete A is not the only one thinking that way—and to be honest, I am sure every athlete and coach has wondered the same thing.
In our follow up interview, I also asked Athlete A about other things pertaining to their sport such as conditioning methods, giving 100 percent, and coaching.
This is where the entire point of this article/study took a turn.
“I don’t trust my coach to coach me into the best athlete I can be. It is very disheartening when the coach has clear favorites and spends all their time on those athletes. The other ones and I are left to fend for ourselves. It isn’t even a double-edged sword at this point. We still get yelled at, not coached, way more than the favorites. I was tagged out when I was put in the game and immediately my coach started hounding me to the point where I thought, why bother anymore.”
Athlete B said at the beginning of their season that they were excited about their sport this year.
However, just like Athlete A, that also took a turn.
“At the end of the season I was so discouraged and felt honestly worthless. I wanted to just retreat back to my room at home and never put on that sport’s uniform ever again if I had to play for them.”
Soon, I dove into the realization that even though we talk frequently about bad coaching methods, we never hear the athlete’s side in depth and over the period of one full season.
Athlete A says, “Teammates have come up to me and told me that coach is trash-talking me on the sidelines. What kind of coach does that!? I have also heard my coach talk about other teammates in that way too. How is this okay, and why aren’t officials stepping in?”
We are failing these athletes.
“My team—excluding the coach’s favorites—and I have even talked on the phone after practices or games about how disheartened we feel. We can’t even go to our other teammates because they are the favorites and we felt like they would take her side. She is not only tearing us down, but she is dividing the team. I am a teenager working my tail off for this sport that I love so much and am getting zero praise. I am consistently at the top on the team, and my coach has even failed to put me on the roster, after-game agendas, and always leaves me—and others—out,” adds in Athlete A.
Athlete B said the same thing in their interview that they were also scared of their coach doing the same thing to them, again, next season.
“The favoritism was so strong that even the parents could see it. The favorites felt bad and did not say anything to the coach, but can you blame them? I spent the entire next year wondering if I even wanted to play for this coach again.”
Athlete A adds on after the season that, “I would make these astounding plays on the field, and it was crickets. But the second I messed up, even if it was not my fault, my coach would be down my throat. When it came to the favorites, it was always you’ll get it next time or shake it off.”
Athlete B said that “my coach made me want to quit. I wanted to never look back at my sport. It was tainted for me forever.”
Athlete A and B both said the exact same thing—paraphrased—next.
“A good coach makes you want to be a better person and athlete all around. I respect a coach who does not play favorites and instead views us all as equals.”
Finally, I asked the question, would you play this sport again?
Both said the same thing—they would play the sport because their love for it was greater, but only if the coach was different.
Do you think all coaches should be vetted before being a coach by past players?