Halberstadt: What language is appropriate for high school coaches?

By Doug Halberstadt
Sports Columnist

During previous high school football seasons and once again this year, thanks to my position as a sideline reporter for WIFR.com, I get the opportunity to hear and see the coaches and players up close and personal. Most of the things I hear are pretty positive. From the players, it’s usually shouts of encouragement from the offense to the defense and vice versa. The coaches might be calling in plays, repositioning players on the field, telling them to watch for this or that, questioning officials, etc.

Recently, I’ve overheard some very “colorful” language being yelled out by one particular coach. I first heard him use the phrases a couple of weeks ago. I didn’t think that much about it when it originally occurred. Because of our schedule, I happened to be working the sideline of that same team again this week.

I now realize those phrases — packed with words usually not heard in a polite society — were part of his everyday coaching vocabulary. He had no reservation yelling at his defensive players to “Strip the #$*&&$$% ball out.” I know I’ve heard that phrase a least a half a dozen times or more over the past two weeks. Another favorite of his is, “What in the *&#@ are you doing out there?” That one’s pretty mild in comparison to the first.

Sprinkled in among those two favorites were a variety of other words that made me think that perhaps he was in the Navy prior to becoming a high school football coach.

I realize these words and phrases have become almost commonplace in our language nowadays. They are not nearly as taboo as they were 20 or 30 years ago. I’m not a prude and most of my close friends have heard me use those same words a time or two myself.

The thing that has been bothering me is, should this type of language be tolerated from a coach among his high school players? I’m pretty sure most of them have heard all of those words before they joined this team. I’m guessing a large percentage of them have even uttered most of the same words. But the question still remains, should a coach at this level continually use them in front of his teen-aged players?

Keep in mind, this isn’t the only coach I’ve heard let a cuss word or two fly during the course of a game. It happens! The thing that separates him from the others is, I’ve witnessed him in back-to-back weeks and have picked up on his habit.

At what age, if any, is it acceptable for a coach to talk however he chooses in front of his players? I know there are multiple videos scattered about social media with examples of college and professional coaches launching into expletive-filled tirades. They’re dealing with other adults, and I get that. Along with a chair toss or two, Bobby Knight became famous because of his propensity for letting the swear words fly.

I think at the high school level and lower, it’s different. It wouldn’t hurt anything to expect a little more restraint from the coaches teaching our children. One would hope they’re trying to set a better example for their players.

This is actually a good lesson for all of us, not just coaches. We’d all be better served to choose our words carefully. One never knows who might be listening.

Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at Dougster61@aol.com.

Posted Oct. 7, 2014

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