Sarcasm Can’t Hide Inappropriate Coaching

Seeing the reaction to the ‘Green Death’, it amazes me the primal reaction people have to stuff like this.


  • “You can come coach my kid ANY day!”
  • “Find your sense of humor! It was a joke!”
  • “The PC Nazi’s strike again!”
  • “We need more coaches like this!”

Yeah! Because my coach can teach my 6 year old kid to kick your kids ASS! UNH!

We all want our kids to be tough, ready for life, and able to take anything that is coming to them. I certainly do. But preparing kids for life doesn’t mean drilling the fact of life into their head like a drill sergeant. Before you jump on the Green Death train, let’s pick our way through the email. Let’s see if maybe this really was just a big misunderstanding from a fantastic coach who just used poor judgement in sending an email his new parents weren’t prepared for, or didn’t have the sense of humor for. Or maybe, behind all the wit and sarcasm, there are real warning signs.

First, be sure to read the coach’s reaction and resignation letter. He includes point by point rebuttal that sheds light on what he believes and how much of his letter was really a joke vs exaggerated. That’s a BIG difference. We can ridicule all we want, but there usually is truth behind sarcasm. So let’s begin.

  1. OK, here’s the real deal: Team 7 will be called Green Death. We will only acknowledge “Team 7” for scheduling and disciplinary purposes [MEANT TO BE A JOKE, BUT CLEARLY AN ISSUE NOW]. Did anyone really care about the team name? I think Green Death is funny. I coach a team called the Lunachicks. I play a U5 team called the Jawbreakers this week (sponsored by a dentist).
  2. According to my wife, my emails get too wordy, so for those of you read too slowly, are easily offended, or are too busy, you can stop here. [CLUE #1 THAT THIS IS MEANT IN JEST FOR THOSE WITH A SENSE OF HUMOR]. Did anyone really care that he said ‘stop reading here’? My emails (and posts) are epically long too and many a similar coach has said the very same thing – if you care – read on.
  3. We play fair at all times, but we play tough and physical soccer [FAIR BUT TOUGH – SEEMS REASONABLE]. Playing tough and physical soccer – nothing wrong with that if it’s fair. These are 6 and 7 year old girls, but you certainly don’t want them to shy away from the ball or opponents.
  4. We do not cater to superstars, but prefer the gritty determination of journeymen who bring their lunch pail to work every week, chase every ball and dig in corners like a Michael Vick pit bull [EVERYONE SHOULD PLAY AND I’M ENCOURAGING HARD WORK BY EVERYONE AND NO FAVORITISM TO SUPERSTARS – BY THE WAY, I LOVE DOGS TOO AND FOUND VICK’S MISTREATMENT OF THEM OFFENSIVE]. Everybody plays and develops = great. The Vick thing was stupid – if it was that offensive to you, then don’t joke about it. But still, not a big deal, IF he’s not coaching to win (see below).
  5. Unless there is an issue concerning the health of my players or inside info on the opposition, you probably don’t need to talk to me. Coach Mac has been designated “good guy” this year. [JOKE – BUT I THINK I HAVE DEFINTIELY MADE HIM LOOK GOOD ON A RELATIVE BASIS] OK, here is my first concern. Yes, halfway through the email, this is my only concern. Parents are not to talk to Coach K unless their kid is sick. Coaches are not untouchables and good coaches encourage parent feedback, within reason. Don’t come complaining that your child should only play striker or your child didn’t play enough. But encouraging two way communication with your parents will help you better understand your players, what they are facing, and how to handle them. It also helps your parents better understand you. Designating an assistant to be the go between – ok, that’s a decent compromise, but still not great.

If Coach K had stopped right here? Heck, I’d sign my daughter up to play for him. He believes in hard work, fair play, and wants to develop tough players. What’s wrong with that? But then he had to get political, and in my opinion, that is what brought the strong reactions. You’re there to coach the kids and teach them soccer and some life lessons. Great. But what follows is a screed about how American kids are fat and lazy and the great Coach K will whip them into shape and make them crave red meat and to win at all costs. Lets see…

  1. I believe winning is fun and losing is for losers [JOKE – WE ALL LIKE TO WIN. ALSO PLEASE TELL ME WHAT THE OPPOSITE OF THE WINNER IS, A NON-WINNER? EVERYONE LOSES AND NEEDS TO DEAL WITH IT]. Ergo, we will strive for the “W” in each game. While we may not win every game (excuse me, I just got a little nauseated) I expect us to fight for every loose ball and play every shift as if it were the finals of the World Cup [YEP, I AGREE WE WON’T WIN THEM ALL – BUT WHAT’S WRONG WITH TRYING]. This is where red flags start to come up for me. No – there certainly is nothing wrong with winning and you want your kids to play hard. Winning is great and there is nothing wrong with the players taking the field trying to win. But coaches of young players are there to develop their players – ALL of them. You can put in the fastest couple kids you have and win most games. Meanwhile the rest of the team, even while on the field, do little but watch the fast kids play. Those kids aren’t being developed, even though they are playing. Any long time coach will tell you that the strongest fastest kids in the younger age groups are NOT always the best soccer players when they get older. Kids develop at different rates and times. But soccer players need a soft touch on the ball and standing around in a game while a couple fast kids play to win means you’re shorting the other players. Would this coach do that? I have no idea. But based on what he wrote, I’d be very concerned as a parent that winning would outweigh player development. Playing time does NOT equal development. Players should play all positions and the faster kids should sit some and be encouraged to involve other players once they score a couple. His comment earlier about not catering to super stars seems to indicate he believes this, but the strong winning language makes it a toss up. As a parent, if my kid wasn’t one of the fastest and strongest players, I’d be concerned.
  2. While I spent a good Saturday morning listening to the legal liability BS, which included a 30 minute dissertation on how we need to baby the kids and especially the refs, I was disgusted[A JOKE, PERHAPS A BAD CHOICE OF WORDS, BUT AREN’T WE ALL A LITTLE TOO CONCERNED ABOUT LEGAL LIABILITY NOW? HOW ABOUT LETTING KIDS JUST PLAY THE GAME]…If the refs can’t handle a little criticism, then they should turn in their whistle. The sooner they figure out how to make a decision and live with the consequences the better. My heckling of the refs is actually helping them develop as people[I HAVE NEVER HECKLED A REF WITH INTENT OF MALICE, SOME MAY NOT GET THE JOKE, BUT ISN’T IT GOOD FOR KIDS TO BE ABLE TO INTERACT WITH ADULTS, THEY WILL DEAL WITH THEM SOON ENOUGH]. This right here, by far, is the part that infuriated me the most. Legal liability is BS until somebody gets hurt – then the league has to deal with it. Heckling referees is absolutely uncalled for. At the U8 age level, most of the referees ARE KIDS THEMSELVES trying to learn how to officiate soccer. Being heckled or screamed at by a grown adult on the sidelines is insanely intimidating and more often than not leads them to quit reffing instead of learning how to handle criticism. How sad is it that for many younger referees, their parents will attend matches they officiate, not to watch out of pride, but to be there in case a parent or coach starts to berate them. Seriously – Intent of Malice? So unless you’re screaming at a young kid trying to referee because you want to hurt them, it’s OK to get angry with them? Put yourself in that 12-13 yr old kid’s shoes being screamed at by a grown man who isn’t their parent, because they made a mistake. Consider this: You’re in the grocery store and your kid drops a jar of jelly on the floor – some splashes on a grown man’s shoes nearby. Suddenly he starts to scream at your kid about being clumsy and they should be more careful and what were they thinking! For all of you who think Coach K is the bomb, tell me you’d stand by while that happened. Bull. You’d get up in the guy’s face and tell him to mind his own business. As it stands, this guy berated a kid so badly last year, they refuse to referee any more. It’s soccer for 6 and 7 year old kids. If a referee makes a mistake that costs you a goal, is it REALLY that big a deal? it’s all about perspective. Plus it teaches your kids to blame the refs when things don’t go their way – great life lesson. Blame the other guy.
  3. The rest is just a political screed about lazy kids and not wanting to win at all costs. I thought it was funny, and not too far from the truth at times, but not appropriate for the first email you ever sent to your parents. Besides – the guy likes blue slushies – can’t be all bad. But there’s a time and place for stuff like this and in an introduction to your parents, no.
  4. Lastly, we are all cognizant of the soft bigotry that expects women and especially little girls, to be dainty and submissive; I wholeheartedly reject such drivel. My overarching goal is develop ladies who are confident and fearless, who will stand up for their beliefs and challenge the status quo. Girls who will kick ass and take names on the field, off the field and throughout their lives. I want these girls to be winners in the game of life. And despite all my misgivings about the above, this is awesome stuff right here. As a girl’s coach I agree wholeheartedly with this. Teach your players to be fearless and confident. Reject the expectation that girls will play less intense than the boys.

Where does that leave us? A very long email, over the top in sarcasm, sent to parents who have no idea who this coach is or what he is like. However, once  you weed through the sarcasm, what does it tell us about the coach? All of you chanting that he’s such a great coach and so on, don’t be blinded by the political BS and what not. When you whittle it down you have a soccer coach, for 6 & 7 year old girls, who believes that:

  • Girls should play hard, tough and fair at all times [Good]
  • Parents should not talk to the coach [Bad]
  • Winning is important [Bad if it’s done at the expense of developing the players]
  • Referees should man up and accept heckling from adults for their mistakes [Bad]
  • Girls should be developed to reject the status quo and play fearless [Good]

When you come down to it, as a new parent, that’s what you are faced with. This type of coach is VERY common in youth soccer. He’s most likely a screamer, who comes down on referees when they make mistakes and maybe believes getting the win is more important than player development. Ironically, that contradicts his political statements about life and girls and being tough. I tell my team all the time, if they lose a match because of a referee mistake, they weren’t playing hard enough to overcome it. Life’s not fair. If you want to make sure you walk away with a win, then put the ball in the net enough times to overcome any bad calls you think were made. I think it’s a toss up as to how he handles player development (win at all costs or develop all players even if it means losing games at a young age). But as a new parent, getting this email, I’d probably think he’s win at all costs.

So was what happened fair to Coach K? Absolutely. As I stated before, he let his beliefs get in the way of smart communication with his new parents.

he acted with blatant disregard to his players, their parents, and how they would react to this. He attracted national media attention to a group of 6 and 7 year old girls who just want to play soccer and whose parents suddenly had to struggle with what to do, threaten to pull their kids, debate sticking it out, etc. The kids just want to play and this coach, either trying to make a joke (and failing), or trying to make some political statement, did so at the expense of a group of girls who just want to play soccer. For that reason alone, he shouldn’t be coaching, regardless of his views or badly written humor.

Add to that the beliefs he has as a coach once you get through the ‘joke’ and the parents who decided they wanted a different coach were making a smart choice for their kids.

Leave a Reply

  1. I don’t know this coach so I have no dog in this fight. However I do have an opinion and it’s an opinion of you. This is not a blogger you’re doing a takedown on. Analyzing an email to such ridiculous detail and drawing conclusions and themes from it, has got to be the most fantastically egregious abuse of a keyboard this side of Robert Fisk. And another thing: if all we have to go on is the email (and that was you’re only source originally), then how you could read past the “here’s the real deal” line and consider all that follows anything BUT tongue in cheek is beyond me. So now to my opinion: you are either trawling for eyeballs (congrats then!) or you’re a fool. Thank god I don’t work with you man. I’d hate to have to write you an email.

  2. Dean,

    The whole point of this story was how this coach’s parents and his soccer league reacted to his email (with many threatening to pull their kids) and many people saying ‘whats the big deal – it was just a joke’, when, in fact, some of it wasn’t.

    You’re welcome to your opinion of me being a fool, and you certainly wouldn’t be alone in that opinion, but this story has spawned much debate, revolving around that one email, was he serious or not, and what type of coach he would be. I simply did what his parents had to do when they received it – decide what type of coach he really was based on the information available. If you think that makes me like Robert Fisk, then it’s clear who the fool really is.

  3. Soccer Dad:
    that’s the whole problem. You fisked his email and decided based on only that piece of information, what type of person/coach he was. Then you blogged about it bringing even more attention to the issue and the kids on the team (something you decried I believe). My argument is that the email didn’t provide adequate basis to make the judgements you made. Presumably any parent who did complain had more information that just the email, no? Thus my opinion. By the way, don’t you feel just a little bad plastering this guy’s misadventure all over the net and calling him borderline psychotic?

  4. With all due respect to your opinion, Dean, one key source of Mike’s discomfort with Coach K was the fact, revealed to the world outside of the Green Death email, that Coach K constantly berates refs, all of whom were pre-teens and teens, to the point that he was reprimanded by the league last year and at least one ref quit b/c of the harrassment. In our rec league (and AYSO in general) there are no cards or offsides to be called at the U8 level so one has to wonder why anyone would have anything to scream about at a ref. If you read Coach K’s resignation letter and his rebuttal/explanation of his own email (another piece of evidence for Mike to draw on regarding Coach K), he concedes that he yells at the teen refs. At any rate, Mike has at least three pieces of information to draw conclusions from 1. the original email, 2. facts reported outside of the email and 3. Coach K’s resignation and his bracketed explanations of what he meant. Further, I don’t believe Mike ever suggested that Coach K was “borderline psychotic” in any of his posts.

  5. Speaking of cool team names….there used to be a team in our league that was called the Chiromaniacs. The coach of the team was a chiropractor.

  6. I never claimed the coach was, though I did say the email was.

    All the same – the intent here is not to crucify anyone, rather to discuss both a story that made national headlines AND the reactions both of parents who received the email as well as people who read about it and felt this was an appropriate coaching mindset.

    I’ll admit to having a strong reaction about this, mainly because, like Marcus, I’ve been a league president and have had to deal with coaches just like this. It’s not fair to the kids or the referees, but it can be extremely difficult to remove coaches who berate referees.

    As for me singling him out, when I first wrote this story, I did not mention the team or league in the article, even though they were included in the original source I had (barstools). But as I was finalizing the draft for publication, I found that the story had gone national including the name of the coach and league, so felt it was appropriate to include them. It wasn’t a secret.

  7. I think you’ve got it pretty much right on there. The email was clearly meant to be humor, but the hyperbole covers some ideas that aren’t right for a U7 coach. As a father of a 14yo referee, the fact that this man has berated a 12yo referee to the point where she has left the game is enough right there. What kind of adult thinks it’s ok to abuse a 12yo child??? I play more than half my games with semi-competent officials because it takes a couple seasons for them to get competent (longer for the younger ones) and ignorant *(%^$ coaches like this chase them all away before they ever become good referees. That attitude trumps everything else–as you mention there is actually some good stuff in there like working hard, competing, and especially about building confident young women.

  8. The ref issue is a different issue to me. Here’s my thoughts on the ref issue.

    We have one U10 team in a club I work with that insists on only adult refs, because they are unwilling to accept licensed refs who are teenagers. The club puts up with that, but I wouldn’t. Refs. need to learn and U9-U10 around here is non-results oriented, standings are not kept, so if it were my call, that team would get new and upcoming refs.

    For the most part, however, younger, inexperienced refs cut their teeth as centers on U9-U10 non-results-oriented games, and as linesmen in older age groups. Our rules are, a ref has to be two or more years older than the age group they are center-reffing.

    Do we have coaches who talk to the refs? Yes. It is tolerated. Do we have coaches who yell at the refs? Yes. If the ref complains in their match report or someone complains, a follow-up is done and first-time offending coaches get a written warning. Worst for the refs, however, are tournaments, which are not usually regulated as closely as league games. Even at U9 and 10, I see some coaches who yell at the ref, and over the years I’ve reported a few to tournament organizers.

    On the other hand, do we have refs who ultimately cannot muster the self confidence to officiate, and who don’t have a career in reffing? Yes. Do we have refs who don’t get the game … well … most of our teenage licensed refs are players and have been players, so they get the game. But, with inexperience, they do make bad calls, don’t see everything, and can be a little timid about making the big call.

    I think it’s unavoidable that refs take some guff. It’s not right, and we must work to minimize it, but it’s unavoidable. Some coaches dish out way too much. Some refs are better at handling the critique than others.

    Back to the thread at hand, I don’t think we know enough about the ref in question or that ref’s cumulative soccer experience to know if her leaving was solely because of this one coach or not. However, it is in poor taste for him to introduce himself to parents of new 7-8-year old players in the way he did, and his comments about refs are unhelpful with regards to how we want these parents to view refs and how we want our coaches to support refs.

    Make sense?

    Cheers,

    Sean

  9. Mike K is a friend of mine. Very sarcastic. Not politically correct. Good with kids. Good family man. VOLUNTEER coach who lives in a PC suburb in BLUE Massachusetts.

  10. BLUE or RED has nothing to do with it. Volunteer has nothing to do with it. Vollies can and should be professional, as well as the paid guys.

    Cheers,

    Sean

  11. Michael Kinahan is the poster child for what is wrong with youth sports. He should be banned for life from coaching any youth sport.

  12. Everyone is ‘just kidding’ once they get caught. His aggressive and unfunny email to parents was a power play plain and simple. He wasn’t kidding and his history as a ‘coach’ and volunteer are well known. These are 6 and 7 year old children. Yes, the email was to the parents, but he wasn’t kidding.

    I’ve been a player and coach at the pee wee through college levels… Guys like this hide their bullying and unsatisfied aggression by being ‘funny’ and ‘just kidding’.

    Good for the parents who called him on his BS. He has no place coaching.

  13. The ref issue is a different issue to me. Here’s my thoughts on the ref issue.

    We have one U10 team in a club I work with that insists on only adult refs, because they are unwilling to accept licensed refs who are teenagers. The club puts up with that, but I wouldn’t. Refs. need to learn and U9-U10 around here is non-results oriented, standings are not kept, so if it were my call, that team would get new and upcoming refs.

    For the most part, however, younger, inexperienced refs cut their teeth as centers on U9-U10 non-results-oriented games, and as linesmen in older age groups. Our rules are, a ref has to be two or more years older than the age group they are center-reffing.

    Do we have coaches who talk to the refs? Yes. It is tolerated. Do we have coaches who yell at the refs? Yes. If the ref complains in their match report or someone complains, a follow-up is done and first-time offending coaches get a written warning. Worst for the refs, however, are tournaments, which are not usually regulated as closely as league games. Even at U9 and 10, I see some coaches who yell at the ref, and over the years I’ve reported a few to tournament organizers.

    On the other hand, do we have refs who ultimately cannot muster the self confidence to officiate, and who don’t have a career in reffing? Yes. Do we have refs who don’t get the game … well … most of our teenage licensed refs are players and have been players, so they get the game. But, with inexperience, they do make bad calls, don’t see everything, and can be a little timid about making the big call.

    I think it’s unavoidable that refs take some guff. It’s not right, and we must work to minimize it, but it’s unavoidable. Some coaches dish out way too much. Some refs are better at handling the critique than others.

    Back to the thread at hand, I don’t think we know enough about the ref in question or that ref’s cumulative soccer experience to know if her leaving was solely because of this one coach or not. However, it is in poor taste for him to introduce himself to parents of new 7-8-year old players in the way he did, and his comments about refs are unhelpful with regards to how we want these parents to view refs and how we want our coaches to support refs.

    Make sense?

    Cheers,

    Sean