There have been many instances where the heat of the game and competitive fire can lead to fits of ugliness in general human behavior. Sports analysts can document back decades of prior degressions, from George Teague blasting Terrell Owens on the Dallas Cowboys star, to just this past week with two separate instances of coaches arguing and fighting during the handshake line. When Michigan University’s basketball coach Juwan Howard swung at Wisconsin assistant coach Joe Krabbenhoft, we can sit back to pick apart who’s at fault and make arguments to who deserves certain punishments. For the Big Ten Conference, the major issue runs far deeper than the game’s argument.
For every member of the coaching staff for Michigan and Wisconsin alike, these men and women have numerous responsibilities on multiple different fronts. They are tasked to improve their respective athletes’ health and playing abilities. They are also tasked with something far more significant; to turn aspiring young men and women into grown leaders of the industry, through athletics, and more importantly, through society. With the development of technology and the enhanced development of social media, coaches are on constant watch to exude these layers of professionalism daily. Any negative transgressions presented are then presented with swift repercussions, as Michigan Head Coach Juwan Howard and Wisconsin Head Coach Greg Gard have now discovered.
The Act Of Sportsmanship
The act of sportsmanship has been labeled as an important, institutional element that coaches and individuals preach for athletes and coaches to uphold. The handshake lines at the end of basketball and baseball/softball games. Players and coaches go onto the field to shake hands and give hugs after football games. Moments like these in the world of sports are a general, but key reminder that despite any differences opposing coaches and players may have, these individuals at the end of a game can come together to protect the sanctity of the world of competitive sports. With that sanctity violated this past Sunday, how can the Big Ten Conference respond to ensure instances such as these will not be tolerated further?
One potential option can be presented: The Big Ten Conference can make a mandatory compliance agreement for all universities to follow, asking them publicly to promote further resources and attention to leadership and mindfulness training.
Juwan Howard and Greg Gard have been praised by players, administrators, and others alike for their passion for the game of basketball, the positive relationships they’ve built with their players, and their desire to improve overall as coaches and human beings. Their scuffle is a reminder that they can quickly be humbled despite their celebrated actions and reminded that they are held to a higher standard.
Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren responded quickly to the situation at hand, praising the work of each university’s administrators for working together, but also reminding them that a higher standard of protocol must be maintained. Further action, it can be argued, can be taken by the Big Ten Conference and ask for university compliance across the board towards further attention to mindfulness and leadership training for the university coaching staff. This training can be focused on the obligations made above regarding coaching responsibilities to their athletes and about the mindfulness initiative, training focused on coaches being more self-aware of their emotions in the heat of the moment.
Many universities across the Big Ten Conference (Iowa, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Purdue, to name a few) have begun in the past decade to implement programs about mindfulness to ensure the healthier well-being of students and staff alike. Even in coaching, new programs such as Mindful Sports Foundations and Mindful Sports for Coaches are being utilized by sports administrations to give coaches training on improving mental well-being and managing emotions when it comes to training their athletes. Whether it’s these programs or others alike that the Big Ten Conference can relay for universities to follow, making a statement for the universities to commit to this initiative establishes a framework and identity for other conferences and schools to follow suit. This framework can serve as a baseline and a fire-starter for more responsible coaching and human behavior ethics in the world of college athletics.
This creative option should not be considered a be-all, fix-it-all solution. The world of competitive sports will always, at any given time, present heat of the moment transgressions that can leave sour tastes in the mouths of dedicated viewers. However, positive opportunities can be presented in this situation, as both universities have expressed remorse for the situation. The Big Ten Conference came down and levied punishments they deemed appropriate, but more can be done to improve the future of college athletics. Making a statement to mandate the training topics listed above can present an opportunity for the coaches at hand to strengthen and coaches of universities across the country.