There’s a glaring issue with how sports on all levels are run in the United States. From the earliest ages of recreational competition to the elite professional teams that rule the world’s sporting landscape, almost every team has a coach in some shape or form. Just as having a dreadful teacher is pretty normal in life, so is having an awful coach. This leads to a massive issue that has seemingly gone unaddressed in American athletics. Bad coaches aren’t the problem, toxic coaches are.
This applies to coaches from my old little league baseball coach, Mr. Thompson, to DJ Durkin’s football program at Maryland, all the way up to Gregg Williams’ Saints’ defense in 2009. Essentially, these toxic coaches and their actions have the potential to inadvertently and sometimes on purpose, ruin a young player’s career.
My little league coach is the reason I am no longer on track to be a Major League Baseball player. On a darker note, DJ Durkin and his inability to control his staff is the reason a promising young man lost his life as a result of being overworked during off-season workouts. Gregg Williams and his bounty program are a large part of the reason that Peyton Manning had neck issues during his career. Isaiah Humphries, a former safety for Penn State football who now plays for Cal, alleged recently that his former program still has major issues with toxic culture, hazing, and sexual harassment among other things. The Mike Rice scandal at Rutgers and the Larry Eustachy scandal at Colorado State are other examples of an authoritarian-style coach crossing the line when it comes to disciplining their players.
The list of incidents goes on and on, and while there’s often backlash and sanctions against these troubled programs, the problem never seems to improve. That is the issue — it seems systematic. The lack of power the U.S. sporting governing bodies has is extremely distressing. The place where most of these incidents happen is in college sports. The NCAA, which runs American college sports, is more focused on stealing the revenue their players generate than actually fixing the problem.
The solution is more than a fine, suspension, or firing. The solution is legislation. The solution is the metaphorical death penalty (suspension of the athletic program). The solution is to stop the problem at the roots, to make sure coaches on all levels will do the moral things when it comes to the serious issues previously mentioned. The solution to this will not be easy. But then again, neither are sports.