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.