How Far is Too Far?

Last Tuesday, I wrote a post called Sports Leagues for Children.  The article highlighted the fact that all sports leagues aren’t created equally.  Some are more competitive than others.  Depending on your child and their stage of development, non-competitive leagues have some advantages worth considering.  Here is a link to the article for more information.  That post leads me into today’s story.

Last week, a story broke out of Collier, Tennessee of a high school football coach named Shawn Abel who resigned after a profanity laced tirade (before a football game) was recorded and placed on Youtube.  For more details on the specifics of the story, here’s the link.  I will warn you though the actual clip is vulgar and children should not be around when you choose to listen to it.

After listening to the rant, my wife was convinced Coach Abel should have been fired immediately.  For those of you who agree with her, I can’t blame you.  The tirade was awful and deeply personal.  Others of you may think this is a free speech issue and the rant was in a locker room which has closed doors for a reason.  It’s hard for me to argue this point as well.

What I think people have to understand though is that the passion for competitive sports with some coaches and athletes is close to life and death.  These types of rants have happened many times on the professional and collegiate levels.  Is it really a surprise that a rant like this was captured on the high school level?  Does anyone believe this type of behavior is isolated to this coach at a small town in Tennessee? In my mind, the answer to both questions is a resounding “No!”

I can’t possibly pinpoint what crosses the line for a coach in a locker room.  Many teams are like extended families and sometimes things are regrettably said in families that shouldn’t be.  On the other hand, it’s a shame that the members of the football team who were not conforming to what the coach wanted to see on the field weren’t benched or suspended.  If that happened, the tirade probably wouldn’t have occurred.

I talked with an old friend of mine about this incident and asked about his high school football head coach (who continues to run a highly successful program in Louisville, Kentucky).  My buddy said his coach cursed though rarely but it wasn’t at a particular person.  There were times though he wanted to kick the other teams (f***ing) behind. Though not nearly as sever as Coach Abel, is this an example of crossing the line as well?

Our increasingly political correct world is interesting indeed.  I wonder how many other disgruntled high school players are going to plant recording devices in locker rooms.  Only time will tell.  This is another small example of how social media has changed the world.

No matter where your justified opinion falls on Coach Abel, I’ll end with this.  The sanctity of the locker room was destroyed forever at Collierville High School.  The same thing can happen anywhere that a coach uses profanity and has a player who is not happy.  It would be wise for all coaches to internalize this fact and react accordingly.

My next post will be next Friday.  Also, feel free to check out my parenting book Tantrums, Troubles, and Treasures. It’s designed to help great parents through life’s little struggles with a child. Tough topics such as bullying, education, and how to handle arguments are discussed from the heart of a teacher. Have a fun weekend with your family!


  1. Clayton, this is the ultimate small world. This guy was the football coach in the neighboring town. That school is just five miles or so from my house. I'm appalled at the language and think it's Cah-Razy. Thankful his lack of judgment was dealt with appropriately.

  2. nekky says:

    It's so sad that something like this in happening in the school system. Thank goodness there are always some good people around who watches and take good actions.

  3. Jessica says:

    These types of outbursts are all too common, unfortunately. It's simply not the example I want set for my son so I would, if possible, find another team for him to play on with a coach who respects his players enough to keep his foul mouth in check.