“It Happens Everywhere”

In light of the Jody Adam’s allegations to hit headlines this past week, I can’t help but ponder what is true, what is not true and what is being exaggerated.

Here is a quick synopsis: four women’s basketball players, two of which were starters, transferred from the Wichita State Women’s basketball team. Under Adams’ reign, two or more players have transferred or left the team each year. Players are unhappy, it isn’t the right fit, or they are on the verge of burnout- I get it. But what stumps me is the tremendous success Wichita State has had over the last three years and players are still choosing to leave. Players who play 30 plus minutes a game are still choosing to leave. Players who have won three straight championships are still choosing to leave. What gives?

These players are claiming they left due to “mental abuse.” I will not delve into the specifics as I have read articles defending both parties. It is not my intent to take a side and say who is right and who is wrong. Rather, I will shine a new light on my experience as a college basketball player from a mental standpoint.

I personally have had coaches on both ends of the spectrum. I have had in-your-face-type coaches, coaches who scream and curse and coaches who run you all practice. I’ve also had coaches who filled my tank, who knocked me down but picked me right back up and coaches who still serve as my mentors today. I’ve had coaches who are a combination of the two extremes.

What bugs me about the mental abuse claims are the excuses that follow. “It happens everywhere,” or “it happens all the time.” That is arguably the worst justification of a matter more serious than most would like to admit. Why? Because it doesn’t happen everywhere. I am a huge advocate for being challenged, yelled at and pushed to my limits. In fact, without these means of motivation in a coaches arsenal, winning games may be hard to come by. But there is a fine line between being a hard-ass and straight up breaking your players to the point they feel the need to escape a coaches wrath.

Now do I think there are fragile and sensitive personalities to consider when players decide to transfer? Absolutely. I think there are far too many players, men and women, who have unrealistic expectations of their coaches. When in reality, we don’t always get what we want. I believe mental toughness is absolutely essential in surviving the demands of college basketball. But I do not believe in mental toughness being stretched thin- something we see far too often- but is masked with win columns, championships and “great” coaches.

Mental abuse “happening everywhere,” and therefore it is okay, is a disgusting rationalization. Truth be told, the subject will forever linger and exist in the college basketball stratosphere. Why? Because it works. Because coaches can say what they want and win basketball games doing it. To me, it is more than that. Basketball players are human and therefore crave the gratification and appreciation any other human striving to be the best would.

Can everyone take the heat? Highly doubt it. But wanting an occasional pat on the back isn’t “soft.” Just as expecting praise from time-to-time is not unrealistic. The bottom line, in my mind, is that if a player does not feel appreciated, they will not last. There must be a balance between the two extremes. “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel” (Maya Angelou). And boy is that the truth.

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