Heat radiated off of baseball player Garrett Scott’s body as he ran 100 poles, running from one foul pole to the other. Head pounding, legs aching, it took Scott three days of practice to complete the punishment that his coach had assigned him. What did he do to deserve such a tough punishment?
“I ran out of the field house in my boxers with no shirt on and I made it all the way to the field,” Scott said.
Athletes like Scott know the pain of coach’s punishments all too well. Nobody likes doing extra running, pushups or sit-ups, and sitting the bench might be a little harsh in some athletes’ perspective. Some may say that these punishments are unfair, but are they necessary?
John Dunning, a freshman who wrestles, plays football and lacrosse, said yes.
“Usually [these punishments] result in making us better athletes,” Dunning said. [Punishments are important especially] when you’re in high school, you’ve got a large group of guys or girls who tend to get out of control somewhat easily.”
Some athletes say that punishments bring about more respect for coaches. Maria Vanderford, a senior who runs cross country, plays basketball and soccer, agrees.
“If there were no punishments, people that don’t respect their coaches would take advantage of them and wouldn’t be serious about their sports,” Vanderford said. “I feel like their performance on the fields or courts would suffer due to repeating offenses of misbehaving.”
Some athletes also say that coach’s punishments help keep them on track. Sophomore basketball player Shontai Totten shared how a punishment given by a coach helped to motivate her in the classroom.
“I had an F on my report card and my coach made me run 50 suicides,” Totten said. “[While it was happening], I was thinking that I was never going to get an F on my report card again so I wouldn’t have to run that much.”
Punishments can play a large role in how players view their surroundings. Players and coaches explain that though they are carried out on the court or field, the message they leave doesn’t just stay there.
“They’re trying to make us better people and build more work ethic,” said Payton Springle, a freshman who plays volleyball and softball.
Cameron Vernon, who coaches girls’ varsity basketball, said that his goal is to teach more than just athletics. He also wants to teach values that players can apply beyond the basketball court.
“It’s not just about winning and losing,” he said. “I think that as coaches we’re trying to teach student athletes what’s right and wrong.”
Many coaches try to teach lessons on and off the court.
“Whether it’s with work, relationships or with their families, [a punishment] is going to help make them a better person,” Vernon said.
Some players say that coaches aren’t fair with their punishments.
“Sometimes they single kids out and they’ll be a little bit more lenient with people and more harsh towards others just because of who they are, not necessarily [because of] what they’ve done,” Dunning said.
Springle sees it from a different angle.
“[I think that the punishments are fair] most of the time, but I don’t agree when the coach punishes the whole team when one person does badly,” Springle said. “I don’t think that you should be punished for something that somebody else did.”
This was the case two years ago when the varsity girl’s soccer team had to run 100 down and backs, running from one end of the field to another and back again.
“A freshman threw a banana peel out the [bus] window and our coach found it really disrespectful, so he decided that the next day at practice, we were going to have to run 100 down and backs,” said senior soccer player Laura Shachtman. “That was probably one of the worst punishments we’ve had.”
Some coaches might prefer punishing one player rather than the whole team, but others say that group punishments can be used as a tool to teach how one’s actions affect the people around them.
“I hope that [the players] learn from their mistakes, and if they’re playing a sport, that not only did they let themselves down, but they also let their teammates and their coaches down,” Vernon said. “Each player is an integral part of the team.”
Wrestling coach Jason Amy believes his punishments are fair.
“We establish rules and those rules are told to players,” he said. “If they’re not followed, then there has to be repercussions for [the players] not following the rules.”
Volleyball and JV girls’ basketball coach Steven Thomas explained that this type of thinking applies in every situation. In life, the players will have established rules everywhere they go and will have to learn how to follow them.
“Everything in life has consequences, either good or bad.”
–By Becca Heilman