I’ve had some pretty terrible coaches in my life, but nothing quite like this. I saw a story on the Today Show last week about a little league coach who is suing one of his players for throwing his helmet and accidentally hitting the coach on his foot, injuring his Achilles tendon.
My first thought upon hearing about this was, “There must be more to this story.” Maybe the teen threw his helmet intentionally or something. Nope. Apparently, this 14-year old little leaguer threw his helmet (as teens, and adults even, are prone to do from time to time) in celebration, the helmet hit the coach, and then the coach ended up with a torn ACL. So, the coach is suing the little leaguer and his family. All I can think about is the old SNL Weekend Update segment “Really!?!”
This seems ridiculous. I honestly wonder what this coach is hoping to gain. I would normally assume that it is all about the money since he is suing for $500,000. But does he seriously believe he could win? The likelihood seems quite slim. And I would guess that this coach knows that. So, perhaps this is about something more than winning.
From my perspective, the coach’s actions here only make sense as an act of pride. The coach felt humiliated that he got injured by a helmet hitting him on the foot, so he’s lashing out. He felt that this teen behaved recklessly by throwing that helmet, so he wants to make him pay. The problem is that this coach’s actions are just as reckless as the teen’s, and probably more damaging to all involved.
But my biggest concern here is not about the actions themselves, but about the example being set. This man is a coach. His role is to be a leader, a teacher, an example for these youth to follow. What kind of lesson is this teaching those youth? If someone hurts you, you should try to hurt them back. Is that the lesson we want our kids learning?
As a pastor, I know how difficult it is to be a leader and to set a good example. No one is perfect. But I think this goes beyond just the normal mistake-making. This coach is intentionally striking out at his player.
The Apostle Paul wrote to Titus and gave him some instructions about leadership in the church. While sports are certainly not church, I think Paul’s instructions apply more broadly. He wrote, “For a bishop, as God’s steward, must be blameless; he must not be arrogant or quick tempered or addicted to wine or violent or greedy for gain; but he must be hospitable, a lover of goodness, prudent, upright, devout, and self-controlled.” When we serve in positions of leadership, whether in the church or in sports or anywhere else, we would be well-served to follow these leadership instructions. This coach did not.
I hope the coach sees the error of his ways and drops this ridiculous lawsuit, but more than that I hope that these youth get a better coach next season who will teach them, not only how to play the game of baseball well, but how to be good people. May we all have those kinds of coaches in our lives.
What have your experiences with coaching been like? I’d love to hear some of your stories…both good and bad.