Life Lessons of Tough Coaching

The hitting coach of the Miami Marlins, Tino Martinez, recently resigned from his position amid allegations that he “verbally abused” his players. What I am about to write has nothing to do with the fact that I consider Tino one of my all-time favorite baseball people. I freely admit, he was a boyhood hero of mine when he played for the Seattle Mariners in the mid 1990’s. I also admired his studio work for ESPN. But those things in no way contribute to why I am writing this. Rather, Tino Martinez’s experience in Miami just kind of provided the last such story I needed to hear before voicing my opinion.

I find it astonishing that grown athletes, especially athletes getting paid millions of dollars at the professional level, can’t take tough coaching. I have read reports from both sides and basically what it boils down to is that Tino got in the faces of players, dropped the F bomb, and ran a very tight ship. What’s the big deal?

I find it reprehensible the type of coaching style that someone like ex-Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice used. He physically harmed players on multiple occasions and called them names that no one should ever address another person by. Reports also surfaced about the ugly, personal names Julie Hermann addressed her female athletes by while a coach at the University of Tennessee. These two examples display everything that is wrong with coaching.

However, there is a significant difference between a case such as Tino’s and the cases of Rice and Hermann. These days it seems as if outsiders, parents, administrators, and athletes themselves are pushing extra hard to eliminate the aggressive coaching methods employed by thousands of coaches across the country, methods that Martinez himself utilized. Again, I am just sitting here asking “Why?”

I benefited from tough coaching.

I benefited from tough coaching.

Who knows, maybe I am totally off base. Maybe coaches who vocally challenge athletes need to cool off and help to preserve young people’s self-esteem. Or maybe I am just old school.

I grew up playing sports. By the time I reached the fifth grade, I became totally accustomed to getting yelled at. I quickly learned that If I did not perform well or if I did not make improvements, I could expect a loud reprimand. When I entered high school the tough coaching just intensified that much more and I just rolled with it. At the time, my teammates and I got half of it. We understood that aggressive coaching made us more disciplined and it helped us to really notice our mistakes and prevent against them in the future.

Several years after I stopped playing sports I got the other half of it. Getting singled out and screamed at on the practice/playing field gave me much tougher skin and made me much more receptive to constructive criticism and even not so constructive criticism. I see some people without a sports background get flustered and bothered if they are challenged or taken to task. They take it personally and fall apart. Because I had superiors (coaches) yell in my face, cuss at me, and yes, even grab me at times, I stay cool under pressure and better yet, respond effectively to it.

If I made a list of the top ten times that I got chewed out in my life, they would all come from when I played sports (if only I had video of each of those to show you). Each of those instances helped to build my character today. It is a shame that a story such as the one with the Miami Marlins came out. Presently there are a lot of people out there who want to end the loud voices and the passionate lectures at the youth and high school level (they probably also want to get rid of tackle football). If the message is sent that this type of coaching is not acceptable at the highest possible level where grown men are paid high salaries than surely they are going to reason that it has absolutely no place around 13-17 year old amateurs. This scares me.

The type of coaching that Tino Martinez lost his job over taught me accountability, competitiveness, and resilience. It also made me a stronger person. Just as we still need tough love, we too need tough coaching. Don’t Blink.

Bob Costas

We live in a society where it is extremely easy to be critical of people who make a living on television, especially the media. Many times we minimize the precision, preparation, and stress that it takes to go in front of a small screen audience. As I have said several times, I enjoy following members of the media and watching their careers develop, and yes, I am critical of many of them myself.

Although I enjoy following all media, I am a sports guy so naturally I have even a sharper eye on the men and women who have the opportunity to cover athletics. I have the people I enjoy and I also have the people I despise. One of these days I plan to write a post detailing my 3 most loved ESPN personalities along with my 3 most hated ESPN personalities. It should be quite a rather fun one that should garner some conversation from all of you.

But tonight’s post is about just one member of the sports media and this person doesn’t even work for ESPN. Rather, this person has served as the face for NBC Sports for many years and has too many Emmy Awards to count. He covers all major sporting events from the Olympics to Sunday Night Football and is widely respected among his peers and his viewing audience. His voice is distinctive, his face is unmistakable, and his credibility is unblemished. I am talking about Bob Costas.

I first became familiar with Bob Costas during the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta where I watched NBC’s coverage of the games as an awe-struck boy from the opening ceremonies all the way through to the closing ceremonies. To say the least, I got exposed to Bob a lot over those two and a half weeks as he covered all the primetime coverage (the 1996 games also introduced me to Greg Gumbel who was working for NBC at the time and anchored the daytime coverage). The way that Costas covered the games with the utmost clarity and respect was so evident that even a ten year old boy like myself could clearly see it.

Fast forward sixteen years later to the present time and Bob Costas is still doing incredible work. Still at NBC, still doing the marquee events, and still looking the exact same as he did back then, he is the best in the business. I think he stands out so much because of his professionalism. He covers everything with complete sincerity and reverence, he doesn’t mess up his lines and he is never caught off guard. He also can cover any event with complete impartiality. So many studio hosts and play by play announcers fail to do this as flawlessly as Bob does. He sets the stage perfectly for the audience to decide which way they will lean when it comes to a certain game or story. He delivers sports in the exact same way as I felt Tom Brokaw delivered the news. Costas never shows ego while on the air, he simply does his job and tells the story and then tosses it over to us to decide.

It is because of this impartiality and “goody-two-shoes” type personality of Bob Costas that I have become very fond of his commentary spots he is now given at halftime during the Sunday Night Football broadcasts. Although I love him for his unbiased and non-preaching ways, I equally enjoy his well-crafted weekly bites of wisdom that NBC gives him the chance to do. Last night he took a big shot at gun rights the day after the tragedy in Kansas City. Because I am friends with and follow a large amount of people from Montana (where gun rights are supported), my Twitter feed blew up with anger over his opinion. In fact, his little halftime sermon actually picked up quite a bit of national attention and criticism as well. Right or wrong, I just kind of admire the fact that Costas can be renowned for his superior straight arrow type broadcasting but every once in a while he can speak his mind and ruffle some feathers.

Bob Costas is a journalist in every sense of the word. Anyone who has any idea about sports knows that if he is covering an event, it is a big deal and that they are going to get a first class production. I think NBC has the perfect plan on utilizing Bob….have him cover sports in his impeccable impartial way 90% of the time and then let him loose for his commentary the other 10% of the time. Costas stands atop the mountain of sports journalism and I will forever watch him. Don’t Blink.