Sunday, 4 November 2012

WARNING: Coaches as Bullies

I am writing this because of some recent stories that have been brought to my attention. There are some bad things going on still today. I thought that the days of coaches berating and belittling had gone by the wayside. I guess not.

It was Pee Wee when I was first introduced to this, hard to believe. I was 10-11 years old and the coach loved what i offered as a player. I found myself in all sorts of exciting situations, PP, PK, double shifting etc. It was not until we were well into the season that things changed. The happy coach had turned mean. There were threats of not playing, sitting on the bench with no explanation and verbal abuse. I was shocked and scared. How could a guy that loved me now hate me?

It continued through Bantam and got so bad I remember one time the coach screaming so the whole rink could here, "Wilkie get off the F*($*% ice". I at that point started to figure out how to get even. I mean you can't talk back to the coach, we all know that. So I started taking retaliation penalties, I stared to play at a well below my ability level and started for the first time, to hate to go to the rink.

In Midget it did not get any better, long stints riding the pine, I was like a dog, my ears would go back and I would hide in the corner. This, as I was told, was to teach me and prepare me for the next level. All I could think was if this was what it was like at the next level I am not sure I want to go there.
In my first year of Junior I was blessed with one of the best coaches I ever had - his name was Sandy Hucul. He was patient, understanding and taught me more than any of the other coaches ever had. At the end of the year I was ranked as a potential first rounder the next NHL draft year.

The rest of my Junior career was not as good. I was traded to Swift and played for Graham James who was a green beret of verbal assault. It came from all directions (him, the press and then the fans). I have hated few people in my life, but I can honestly say, I hated that man. What he caused me to think of myself, how I was intimidated of the control he had over my career caused me to dive into a hole of self destruction.
The pro career was more of the same, there were a few that treated me as a person first and then a hockey player. For those we both got what we wanted. I produced and he succeeded.

I have learned why coaches tend to be on the very aggressive side, they take losses personally and give the after game speech of how embarrassed they were and what a disgrace we were. Just like I got caught up in the emotions of the game, they did to. I failed to learn how to speak up regardless of the repercussions. I would have a pity party (usually involved a lot of booze) and I found that I was rarely alone. My teammates felt that way too. I guess after years of the same pattern of behavior, you learn to survive the verbal assault. And that type of survival will take you places you don't want to go.

So with all of that being said for all of you out there feeling this way, there is hope and ways to end this. Here a few tips that hopefully will help you as you strive to reach your dream:
  1. If you are being assaulted for the same thing day in and day out, it means you don't understand what he is asking you to do. Clarify this with him and get help before or after practice to strengthen the skills required to successfully execute whatever he is saying you are not.
  2. Ask for a 1-1 where you can tell him how you feel when he attacks. If he gets offensive while this is going on, GET OUT! He does not have the capacity to treat you as human being first and foremost, for your own well being in the future leave, ask for a trade. He will call you all sorts of names and bully you even more, I know this sounds scary. If you don't you won't be successful, you can't be successful in that environment.
  3. Get together with the leaders of the team and see if you can explain your situation and ask for their help, odds are you are not the only one dealing with this. Sometimes coaches have to be removed as they do not have the capabilities to understand you do not know everything they expect you to know.
  4. THIS ONE IS THE MOST IMPORTANT-Don't take it personally, even when they make it personal. He is trying to motivate or piss you off so that you will get mad and play, this works for some and not for most. No matter what he calls you, no matter how loud he gets, it is not about you. He is frustrated and angry for some reason, you just trip his wires. Understand that and you will handle this much much better.
  5. In the end I learned that it was the years of abuse that caused me to not give the coach the benefit of the doubt and this stopped me from trusting and performing to the best of my abilities. Often I deserved a kick in the ass, how he did it dictated how I responded. Be VERY MINDFUL, are you really being the best you can be, I know lots of times I was not. BE HONEST with yourself, please, for your own well being.
It is a major problem, I cannot sit here and say it is not. I can tell you that if you allow yourself to take that kind of mental abuse for a season or two, you will lose a big part of your drive and passion. Try 1 or more of the steps above, there is always an answer, a way out.

Bullies are a part of life, learn how to deal with them so you are not taken down. Don't let them feed off of you because that is what bullies do, they need to feed to calm their own insecurities. Understand this and learn some tips to stop it from happening to you and you can then help the thousands of others who are dealing with it as well.

I hope this helps and would love to hear from you if you are being bullied, together we can end the pain!

Bob Wilkie

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