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Modern Parenthood

Mike Rice fired by Rutgers, Pernetti: Parents, tell kids what bad coaching is

Rutgers men's basketball coach Mike Rice was fired by athletic director Tim Pernetti after Mr. Rice's practice behavior was exposed on a video released by ESPN. The video came from a former team aide, not a player, which begs the question: Do your kids, tweens, and teens know how far a coach can go? 

By Lisa SuhayGuest Blogger / April 3, 2013

Mike Rice, Rutgers men's basketball coach, was fired today by athletic director Tim Pernetti after ESPN released a video documenting Mr. Rice's abusive coaching habits that went viral. Parents of small children to college aged young adults need to be weary of coaches who, like Rice, gain control through violenc

Rich Schultz/Associated Press

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When Rutgers men's basketball coach Mike Rice made the decision to be a violent, verbally abusive bully to his players, he got fired and in doing so blew a big hole in the wall of coaching to let some badly needed sunshine in on behavior our kids think they need to suffer in silence. Parents are ready to put coaches in the same glass housing we keep our teachers in and by doing so, make them stop throwing stones at our kids.

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Lisa Suhay, who has four sons at home in Norfolk, Va., is a children’s book author and founder of the Norfolk (Va.) Initiative for Chess Excellence (NICE) , a nonprofit organization serving at-risk youth via mentoring and teaching the game of chess for critical thinking and life strategies.

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ESPN released a now viral video showing Mr. Rice at practice throwing one Class-A tantrum after another: shoving, grabbing, and kicking players, hurling balls at their heads, using profanity, and demeaning players’ sexuality with homophobic slurs.

At first, according to ESPN, Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti suspended the coach for three games and fined him $50,000 after he first saw the video in November. He said he chose suspension rather than termination even though both options were on the table. Today the coach was fired and others in the profession are openly tagging the coach as a bully.

Eric Murdock, who worked with Rice told ESPN, "What this guy did the last two years is criminal -- it was criminal." During the two years he worked for Rice, Murdock said he and the assistant coaches repeatedly urged the coach to try to control his anger with players. "Bullying players made him feel better," Murdock said. "If he made a kid feel miserable, he was able to sleep at night better, even though the kid is going the other way and he's not going to be as productive.… He has real anger-management issues. He can't control his temper.… I can't believe that anywhere else in the country it is worse than this -- it's the absolute worst."

Rice reminded parents that coaches should be viewed through the lens of teachers and limited in their actions in the exact same way. Since we don’t stop being parents when our kids turn 18, we should not stop being outraged and taking action when an influencer like Rice teaches them to be bullies in sport.

I say this as a sport parent whose son, 19, is on the varsity crew team at Virginia Commonwealth University with some great coaches. He works like a man possessed to be an asset to his team because they are his “second family.” He knows the difference between a coach barking orders, a harsh criticism on his time or stroke versus bullying and physical abuse. The reason he knows these differences is because we have been through other sports, like swimming and soccer, where coaches took to bullying players and we took to another sport when the behavior remained unchecked.

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