Abusive techniques should never be employed during training, regardless of how old or how skilled the athletes may be
Chances are that by now most people have seen the video of former Rutgers men’s basketball coach, Mike Rice, enacting his own form of tough love during practices. The video has gone viral, but for all the wrong reasons.
To those who have yet to see the footage, the video shows Mike Rice throwing basketballs at the heads of his players while adding in countless expletives for good measure. Bob Knight, another former college basketball coach notorious for having quite the temper, looks like a girl scout compared to Rice. While his players would watch game tapes in order to prep for their next opponent, I imagine Rice would watch old footage of Knight in order to prep for his next practice.
The April 6 edition of Saturday Night Live lampooned the story, having host Melissa McCarthy act belligerent in an exaggerated sense, going as far as throwing toasters at the players. Sure, it was all done for comedic effect, but if the entire thirty-minute video of Mike Rice’s practice session was released, I’m sure the sketch wouldn’t be far off.
Some professional athletes felt compelled to speak out when the story first broke. Former baseball player, Chipper Jones, took to Twitter to say that he had no problem with how Rice conducted his practices, while NBA superstar Kobe Bryant said, and I quote, “I would have smacked the hell out of him.”
[pullquote align="right"] There’s a significant difference between an invigorating pep talk and a full-on assault … [/pullquote]
Leave it to Kobe Bryant to be the voice of reason.
I think it goes without saying that what Mike Rice did was wrong, and he deserved to be fired. There’s a significant difference between an invigorating pep talk and a full-on assault. I imagine Rice thought he was inspiring his players to perform better because as soon as they showed signs of improvement, basketballs would stop flying at their heads. But of course that did not happen and Rice was rightly fired.
How people like this are put in a position of authority, with power over other human beings, I’ll never understand. I’m not in any position to say if, and/or how the university should be punished for Rice’s actions, but an example needs to be set so that no one thinks this is acceptable behavior.
What is perhaps most absurd about all of this is how little the NCAA has done. We live in an age when a corporation shows little compassion for student-athletes and prefers to exploit them for as much money as they’re worth. If an occurrence doesn’t affect their daily business, or slow their money tap, they’ll brush it under the rug. Soon enough, another story will come and replace it — or so the NCAA hopes.
It’s a shame that it has come to this. The NCAA should be the sole protector of student-athletes and put an end to behavior like this once and for all, as they have all the power to do so. These transgressions occurred at a university, but imagine if it had happened with a little league coach. How would we react as a society then? I’m positive no parent would stand for this happening to their child when they’re young, so why should it be OK when it happens to them in college?
It’s been reported that officials at Rutgers were aware of Rice’s actions long before the video of his practice surfaced; this news has cost the athletic director his own job. It makes no sense to me why anyone would protect Rice, as Rutgers’ basketball team is not a national powerhouse. I could understand this getting a pass if Rice was a great coach who had lead his team to the NCAA tournament, but Rutgers finished 15-16 overall and 5-13 in the Big Ten — they were nowhere close to making it to March Madness.
The public should be championing the achievements of someone like Pat Summitt, the all-time winningest coach in NCAA history who battled early onset Alzheimer’s while accomplishing said feat, instead of giving airtime to coaches like Mike Rice, unless it’s to chastise them. Achievements in sports should not trump personal pitfalls. Coaches cannot be placed on a higher pedestal and must be held accountable when they act amok. Maybe one day we’ll learn to take responsibility for our actions.