McKeever’s methods, on the other hand, are meant to go the way of the dodo. Athletic mentors and aspirants should take note.
The wave of change in coaching has been building for decades. Athlete well-being – physically and mentally – has never been more important, nor has the overarching notion that thriving off the field of play often equates to better performance in competition.
This may seem counter-intuitive. But less is often more in sports and the best coaches understand the value of space, time and flexibility. In elite circles, there will always be pressure and the need to be pushed. But failure, big or small, should never be the end of the road.
So how can a coach like McKeever still exist, or even thrive, in a modern environment? One need only look at the scandals involving gymnastics, or the pushback of over 1,000 athletes in Canada who spoke out against the toxic culture of boxing, bobsleigh/skeleton and gymnastics, to realize that winning at any cost can win if strong people don’t have the courage to call for change.
Those involved in junior sport would only have to look at their local courts or playing fields to find a coach or parent who treats it like an Olympic final or spends their weekends yelling at volunteer referees, referees or officials. A coach of a youth team in a major winter sport had tattoos on his arm of Premiers; he was in charge of the under 10s.
As elite sport faces a belated review of the methods used to achieve success, change is coming from below. The overwhelming push at the grassroots level is for play, participation and fun; to keep kids in the sport long enough for them to decide if they want to start trying seriously later in life.
The way young athletes are treated and encouraged throughout their journey is part of a training revolution. If this isn’t happening at your club – or if coaches are ripping off junior and young adult shirts – you should feel empowered to demand changes.
Aspiring coaches must adopt new methods or wade in because the more young athletes speak out against the toxic culture in sport, the bolder the next generation will become in how they expect to be treated.
Steve Kerr is the way to go, leaving the Teri McKeevers of the world in the distant past.
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