Coaching isn't easy.
Some make it look easier than others but I am shocked in 2018 that we are still dealing with these issues.
In Maryland a young man actually died because of the irresponsibility of people who had authority over him. Coaches are still withholding water from players when it is widely known that proper hydration is vital.
Hopefully, coaches everywhere will soon figure out that needing water isn't a sign of weakness. That's just biology. Somehow I assumed the football world had evolved beyond Howard Schnellenberger's days at the University of Oklahoma where he allowed one water break per practice because of some goofy idea that he was making the players tougher.
You can't be too tough to suffer a heat stroke.
Almost all coaches are past that now. When I go to high school and college practices, you see every type of water dispensing device imaginable and almost every set of drills ends with a quick water break before the next set begins.
There is hope that culture can change when science backs it up. I'm not sure about the emotional toughness culture though. Some coaches are great and realize that confidence can be a players biggest weapon in a fight. Others demean players thinking that shame will make them try harder.
If they aren't giving you 100 percent when you are positive, I'm not sure insulting them and humiliating a player is going to make that better. I guess other players might try harder because they don't want to suffer the same fate, but is a bully really successful just because they force a brief behavioral change with actions that border on abuse?
In Bixby, a team that Shawnee will play during this year's football season, they are dealing with issues where a coach punished a player for showing up late to practice.
Should a player be late? No. Is discipline an important part of coaching? Yes.
Should discipline result in blisters on a players palms that force them to miss practice for several days?
I don't think so.
The line between coaching and bullying isn't that thin. If someone is sore after practice, that is conditioning. If a player is injured, that is closer to torture.
I remember when I was a very young baseball player, we had a coach that tied a rope to the fence and the other end to one of our legs. He proceeded to throw balls at us to "toughen us up." We were seven. I wasn't scared of the ball. I had an 11-year old brother who pitched to me.
Those bruises didn't teach me anything other than to hate that guy.
I'll also never forget the coach of my 12-year-old Little League All Star team. One day in practice, I was rounding first base trying to stretch a single into a double. When I hit first base, I rolled my ankle. I didn't run to second even though it could have been a double because my ankle was injured. The coach decided I was probably faking it because I was fat. He told some world class fat jokes and gave all the guys a good laugh while I tried to walk it off.
A couple of weeks later, we were in a game and down by two runs with two men on base. I hit a bomb over the right field fence and he was jumping up and down in the third base coach's box like he had hit it himself. He tried to give me a high five as I rounded the bases and I just acted like he was invisible.
The baseball gods took care of him. It turns out he was worse than I thought. Years later, he was convicted of molesting young children. I hated that for those kids, but as the person who got to cover the story, I enjoyed seeing him headed to jail.
I hope the other inmates were nice to him if he rolled his ankle.
But it isn't just kids in little league 35 years ago that saw coaches cross the line from hard nosed to abuse.
Sam Mayes - who was a star at Oklahoma State - told a story about a coach that duct taped his left arm down during live contact drills. That "coaching" resulted in a broken wrist.
All of those stories are why I appreciate the coaches that you can tell truly care about the kids in their programs. That doesn't mean they never raise their voices. But when they do, they encourage or admonish, they don't insult.
If coaches are truly trying to get the best out of a player, they will be just as loud when the player does something right as they are when they mess up.
Coaching isn't easy. But when it is done right, it can make a real difference in a kid's life.