Friday, February 11, 2011

Popp Goes, Not The Weasel

The other night I traveled to the gymnasium at Richmond Heights High School to watch the boys formerly coached by Jason Popp score another overwhelming victory in their first game since Popp's removal.  The Richmond Heights mauling of Independence High School kept intact their remarkable  undefeated season.


Now I want to be crystal clear.  There is no place for demeaning language,  personal verbal attacks, or  use of the "N" word when coaching anybody, especially impressionable young men at the High School level.


Coaches should be role models who remember that Job One is molding young people into  solid citizens.


However, the Richmond Heights outcome may end up sending the wrong message.


In this case, the boys on the team took matters into their own hands and threatened to boycott the games,  an action that was sure to derail the Richmond Heights Spartans  march to a championship title clearly within sight. A letter expressing parental concern further empowered the students as it gutlessly was sent to the Superintendent anonymously, without signature.


                  The Richmond Heights Superintendent Dr. Linda Hardwick suspended Coach   Popp for the rest of the season with pay, directing him to attend sensitivity training.


This official response  told those boys that the students were in charge of their team, not their coach.  The Superintendent also made it clear that winning was so important that sacking the coach was OK if that was the only way to get the boys to agree to play.  She seemed to agree with Vince Lombardi's false value system that inspired his slogan, Winning is Everything.


The coach admitted his mistakes but this punishment rewards a mutiny not  justified by the kind of atrocities that made Mr. Christian a hero struggling against Captain Bligh.


 This was a dedicated coach acting insensitively and boorishly to be sure, but unlike the cruel Captain of the HMS Bounty,  Coach Popp's actions obscured his authentic  concern for these overachieving kids.


 If the boys had boycotted with  Coach Popp still in place, the season might have been lost but who cares?  Bulletin to Richmond Heights Educational leaders:  Winning isn't everything. The coach deserved admonition and correction from on high, but not the kind of result that tells the inmates that they can run the asylum.


    The novel Lord of the Flies tells us that children in charge leads to a form of carnage.  Unfortunately, in this case  the casualties of this carnage include the ability to work within a system of properly authorized leadership.  Coaches throughout the country shudder for fear that they may be the next victim.


 General George Patton was a difficult often vindictive leader, but following him was vitally important to the success of the American Army.  Woody Hayes  abused his players at Ohio State,  but he left in his wake a long list of Hall of Famers who now are grateful for the way he toughened them to face the challenges of the real world.


Basketball teams are not the same as armies, I realize that.   But sometimes learning the lessons of being a good soldier can be found on the hardwood floor as well.  Just not in Richmond Heights.

1 comment:

  1. This was a dedicated coach acting insensitively and boorishly to be sure, but unlike the cruel Captain of the HMS Bounty, Coach Popp's actions obscured his authentic concern for these overachieving kids.
    The jury is out regarding Mr. Popp's dedication to and authentic concern for his charges. And it is unclear why you characterize them as "overachieving."