When interscholastic high school sports were in its infancy in the early 1900’s, the Public School Athletic League (PSAL) was founded by Dr. Luther Halsey Gulick, the First Director of Physical Education for New York City Public Schools. One of the attributes of sports he praised was that athletics taught “obedience to a leader, even when evidently mistaken.” For 120 years, we’ve used that same model for sports teams.
In an age where employers crave decision-makers and creative problem-solvers, training young people as we do now to robotically conform to every order just as 1900’s factory workers did, is not filling the needs of 21st century youth.
Moreover, absolute power, which leaves children with no significant voice in their own lives, leads to opportunities for emotional and physical abuse.
If the outcome desired is for each player to give their best possible performance on the field of play, then coaches, during practice or even in some games, will act as facilitators by engaging students in constructive, positive conversations and collaborate with them to explicitly practice the science-based skills found in both sport psychology and social-emotional learning.