There is much controversy surrounding a youth hockey coach who was recently suspended for leaving a game mid-way through due to a racial slur directed at one of his players.
Through all of the articles, blogs, and discussions everyone seems to be calling this a ‘principled stand’ and calling for the coach’s suspension to be rescinded. Based on the facts that I’ve seen in the multiple articles and stories I’ve researched, I see a coach who may have had honorable intentions, but took a path far removed from principles.
Was the racial slur inappropriate? Absolutely.
There should be zero tolerance for these types of comments. If/when they occur, there should be discipline, not only from the league or association but from the infringing player’s coach. There are governing bodies in youth sports who generally take issues such as this very seriously. Although they are not perfect justice systems, most are fair and reasonable.
This coach is arguing his decision was based on principle. What principle is he reinforcing…that racial slurs are inappropriate? How does quitting reinforce that principle? Quitting says, ‘you got the best of me.’ Quitting says, ‘I don’t know how to stand up for my player or my team, so I’ll just walk off.’ It is appalling to use the term ‘principled’ to describe the decision to quit a game.
The lesson he’s teaching is simple: When you don’t get your way…give up. If someone hurts your feelings…run.
Whether racial or otherwise, trash talk is designed to get the other player off his game. Right or wrong, it occurs. And it occurs in any competitive environment. While it may be more sophisticated, it also occurs in the professional world. Sometimes it’s calculated and intentional and sometimes it stems from the heat of competition.
Without mental toughness, it will get the better of you.
Without self-confidence, it will get the better of you.
Without knowing how to persevere, it will get the better of you.
A coach has the unique opportunity to foster those character traits…mental toughness, self-confidence and perseverance. Not to quit.
The team can make a stand by fighting, not in the literal sense of the word or by retaliating with trash talk, but by battling out the rest of the game with resolve and determination. What better situation to rally your team together for an inspired third period? Beat’em on the scoreboard. Play a more intense, physical game. Win every loose puck. Dominate the game to show them that you won’t back down.
Take your fight off the ice by making a formal complaint to the appropriate league officials. Fight for stricter enforcement of racial slurs. Rally a group on Facebook to bring attention to what you feel is a serious issue. If you want your team to stand for something, then lead them in the fight for what you believe is right. Don’t teach them to quit and then call it being principled.
This coach is right about one thing…it is more than hockey. That is why his decision is so disappointing.