“You’re a fucking whiner, just like your son!”
Hard to believe but, that statement was actually screamed at me the other day by my son’s basketball coach. A man who is 40-something years-old. For the first time, I was the victim of bullying today. By an adult.
Here’s the gist of what happened:
I was watching a playoff basketball game with 10 kids playing.
As mandated by the league, when you have 10 kids participating, all must have equal playing time. Five kids play the first half of each quarter, five kids play the second half of each quarter. Easy. And certainly not hard to remember if you’re a coach.
[And just to be clear, this is REC basketball, not travel or varsity where the lesser-skilled players may sit the bench. I have an older son who has played on teams like this, where you have to prove yourself to earn more playing time. It can be a tough nut to swallow, but you do.]
For the third time this season, the coach opted to NOT put my son in for half of the final quarter that he was designated to play. Instead, he kept his own son in the game.
And, since this was the third time he pulled such a stunt this season, I felt he should know that I was disappointed that he was breaking league rules yet again. I double-checked with my husband about the rules, since he was also a league coach for another team. He was also there for part of the game, but had to leave with my other son. Before he left, I made sure he was okay with me talking to the coach afterwards. The game ended and I first asked my son if he wanted me to talk to his coach about what so blatantly happened. He answered with a resounding, “yes!”
I’ll admit I was heated and may have had an accusatory tone, but I also know I was reasonable. Bottom line is he broke the rules and needed to be called out.
Instead of apologizing or even calmly denying it, he went ballistic and screamed at me.
“You can check the books, everyone played equally!!”
When I calmly explained to him that I did not need to check the books because I was there for the entire game and saw with my own eyes that everyone did NOT play equally, that was when he slammed both my son and me with his choice words.
“You’re a fucking whiner, just like your son!”
After I picked my jaw up from the gym floor, I replied, “I cannot believe you just said that to me.”
To which he then started to mimic me, by gesticulating with his arms, squishing his face and imitating my voice.
I felt like I was staring back at a four-year old in a man’s body.
The other coach then stepped between us and apologized for his co-coach’s behavior. I walked away and told him I was filing a formal complaint to the league commissioner to make sure he never coached again.
When we were safely in our car, my son then told me that when he was playing during the game, the coach did not like his body language and had hissed to him, “stop your damn whining!”
I can handle the insults and the screaming, even if it was grossly inappropriate.
What I can’t take is, knowing that this man is coaching kids in a rec league, that he thinks it’s okay to favor players, to scream insults at them, and to treat parents with utter disrespect. My son and his sports-playing peers should not have to withstand such behavior from anyone, let alone their coach.
My husband has coached both youth baseball and basketball teams for many years. He volunteers his time because he loves to teach his two favorite sports and loves to watch his own children, as well as others, develop their skills. Does he like to win? Of course, what coach doesn’t? But, when he coaches a rec team, he knows that you can’t focus on the outcome so much as the team spirit, the skill-building and instilling an attitude of trying your hardest.
Through all his coaching, my husband has dealt with annoying parents, the parents who want their kid to play pitcher or catcher or the parents who constantly email him with questions. And he also has dealt with the whiny kids, kids with disabilities, kids who don’t really want to be there, kids who cry every time they lose, kids who constantly get injured, the list goes on. But guess what? That’s part of the territory. When you coach a youth rec team, it’s more than just coaching. You need to have the patience of a saint, and if you don’t, it’s not for you. Period.
I realized today that had I been a father who went up to him after the game, the coach’s belligerent response would not have happened. I’m pretty sure that if my husband complained to him, he wouldn’t have called him a “fucking whiner.” And I’m definitely sure that had he done so, my husband would not have walked away.
I was frightened by this man today. Frightened that he could react that way, frightened that he was so enraged I could tell he wanted to hit me, frightened that he is a father, and most of all frightened that he is a coach to children in my community.
It’s bad enough we have to worry about bullying in our schools. I never would have dreamed I’d have to worry about it on the playing fields too. From an adult, no less.
I may or may not be a “fucking whiner” but I’m damn sure I’m not going to tolerate a bully. I used to think that bullies should be ignored, but I gotta say, there are times when you need to fight back, and this was one of them. I may have been emotional, but I needed to advocate for my son and any other boys this man may coach. It’s truly absurd that this happened over 7th grade rec basketball. I’m not sure what it says about youth sports and the handful of the crazy-ass parents who are involved. All I know is I’m glad I stood up for what was right, even if it meant I had to deflect a few harsh words.
P.S. The League responded swiftly and with appropriate action. That was the last game that bully will ever coach.