By Laci Sutton / Opinion Page Editor

Athletics are at the center of many individuals’ lives, whether as spectators or participants.

I have been involved in softball, volleyball, and cheerleading, and love watching numerous other sports.

Many student-athletes have been involved in their sport for a good majority of their life. It can become a part of their identity.

However, there is one thing that can turn their greatest passion into their worst nightmare.

I have heard a number of stories recently surrounding poor coaching. I’m a firm believer that coaches can truly make or break a sport for their athletes.

I have seen this issue among classmates in high school, college athletes, and even Olympians.

During the first weekend in October, the National Women’s Soccer League team members halted the gameplay following sexual misconduct allegations involving a coach.

A Garden City Community College women’s basketball athlete recently spoke out regarding her own experiences with the program.

She made the decision to leave GCCC to spare her mental and physical health. Her decision to transfer schools was approved, but shortly after beginning the school year and practicing with her new team, her privilege to play was revoked by GCCC, as the school did not give her a release, thereby making her sit out a year.

Her choice to leave came from battling physical and emotional abuse from the coaching staff. She discussed situations where she was degraded and humiliated, but also where she felt her physical health and well-being were put at risk.

In mid-September we watched numerous Olympic gymnasts from Team USA speak out in trial against team doctor Larry Nassar. These athletes suffered years of abuse and are so brave in making their voices heard.

I have known high school athletes who planned to further their athletic careers in college but left the sport completely due to negative experiences with coaches. They put their physical health at risk to please their coaches.

Stories like these need to be discussed far more often.

As athletes, we put our trust in these individuals. In good scenarios, they can teach us far more than the physical skills needed in our sport.

We trust them to help us better ourselves. We trust them to keep us accountable.

But who is holding them accountable?

There is a huge difference between motivating an athlete and tearing them down for making mistakes.
There is a huge difference between pushing them to their full ability and putting their health and safety in danger.

It is simply unacceptable.

Coaches, if you’re seeing a lot of turnover in your program, maybe it’s time for some personal reflection.Be better, do better for your athletes. Set an example for other coaches around you. Start holding yourself and others accountable. 

Laci Sutton is a Nickerson senior studying nursing. She is the Collegian’s Opinion Page Editor.

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