Tough love, tougher coaching
By Annie Moore
University of Louisville women’s lacrosse coach Kellie Young’s recent media
attention has yet again brought into the spotlight the age-old controversy of tough-
love in coaching. As motivators, coaches often walk a fine line between pushing
their players to be their best and pushing them beyond their limits.
College coaches are entrusted with young adults and student-athletes, and play a
large role in forming their careers athletically and academically. As such, coaches
face much criticism when outsiders view their tactics as too harsh. But exactly
how far is too far? Where does a coach cross the line from intense to abusive?
On one end of the spectrum there are coaches who are noted for their benign
behavior on the sidelines, some who incite mediocrity with their wishy-washy
attitudes, and others like former Indianapolis Colts coach who saw success with
his signature “Quiet Strength”.
At the opposite end there are coaches who are historically remembered for their
intense, sometimes aggressive leadership style. Leaders like Bob Knight who
saw immense success as the head basketball coach at Indiana University, but was
constantly scrutinized for being too intense.
Fans, families, athletes and fellow coaches all vary on where they fall on that
spectrum of intensity, but one thing everyone can agree on is success. Everyone
likes to see their team succeed, where they differ is at what cost that success
Coach Knight led the Indiana Hoosiers to three NCAA National Championships,
11 Big Ten Conference Championships and an undefeated season in 1975-1976.
Knight individually had 902 career Division I college basketball wins, third all-
time behind Coach Jim Boeheim of Syracuse University and his former player
Coach Mike Krzyzewski of Duke University, received the National Coach of the
Year award four times, and coached the 1984 men’s national team to Olympic
Advocates of less-harsh coaching argue that tactics like Knight’s breed failure
because the players’ only motivation is fear of failure. Proponents of intense
coaching argue that passion exhibited by coaches can be seen reflected in the
teams they coach which drives teams to higher success.
But in the case of Coach Knight, outside of some Hoosier faithful, he is
remembered less for his successes and more for his chair-throwing, player-
choking outbursts. But if he was such a horrible person as many view him, why
was he allowed to stay at Indiana for 29 seasons? Why was he offered jobs after
his dismissal from IU in 2000? And why was he inducted into the Basketball Hall
of Fame? Because you can’t argue with success.
Coach Knight’s tactics, while controversial, produced the winningest era in IU
basketball. And though some may like to argue that he shouldn’t have been
allowed to coach young people due to his temper, that man’s passion was
exhibited through his team’s success and attitude.
So as we see more coaches like Coach Young being scrutinized in the media for
controversial coaching techniques, let us remember that some coaches are more
passionate about driving their teams to success than others. And also, as a coach
of a major collegiate team every move you make is under a microscope. These
coaches are humans who make mistakes, just like we do.
So next time you get so frustrated you could pick up your chair and throw it… just
be happy there aren’t national television outlets around to capture it.