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

2 thoughts on “Halberstadt: What language is appropriate for high school coaches?

  • October 7, 2014 at 6:24 pm
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    I find it reprehensible that ANY high school coach would use such language on or off the field!! He is a MENTOR to these young people and a mentor does not swear, EVER, in the presence of students. Hey, if the coach gets to, why not the teacher when the students are misbehaving in the classroom……..what is the difference???? My belief is a person uses that type of language when they are too uneducated to find appropriate words to express themselves. Coaches should be encouraging players (like the players do for each other) not denigrating them or their team during the game!! Coach should be written up and if it continues, fired!! Teachers can’t do it, either can coaches.

  • October 8, 2014 at 3:23 pm
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    If any of these questions even have to be asked or brought up its clear that the person asking never played sports at a highly competitive level. In the heat of a game or contest emotions flair and things are said. The coaches are paid to win. If they don’t win they are fired and lose there jobs, so of course they get into the heat of the moment. With the amount of money parents spend on training and club and travel sports they expect to win. Ask a parent who is spending close to $5000 a year on there child if this offends them? If you were in a coaching situation in todays sports you would know the answer already. Mind you, the kids on the sidelines are more then familiar with these terms and phrases let alone words. Try listening to the music they listen to on a everyday basis its all right there everyday.

    This article would be better served for the 50’s or 60’s for the Ward and June Cleaver crowd. Maybe Donna Reed can bake a pie for the coach and tell him not to yell next time. The era when you might have got your mouth washed out with soap or got a ruler across your fingers, and dinner was at the table at 5pm every night is long past. Times and society have changed. If you watch any sports on TV you can see this from the high school to professional level it’s an every day occurrence. If you are uncomfortable with it then I suggest remitting yourself from the sidelines and pulling up a seat at a local church.

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