When the coach turns babysitter

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THE coach has become the first to be sacked if the team is not firing and, if the players are misbehaving off the field, it has suddenly become the responsibility of the coach.

I have seen coaches spend considerable time getting players out of trouble, counselling them and keeping them from off-field distractions. The game itself is almost a welcome relief!

With this current generation of sportsmen (and I am mainly referring to men here), the coach has become a virtual babysitter.

In the past, the coach would tell a player to do something and it would be taken on board, now coaches have to deal with players challenging their decisions and remonstrating if they are replaced or not selected.

Practically every professional footballer has a manager, who calls the coach if his star client is dropped; and if the player forgets to pay rent, the manager sorts it out. If there is an off-field behavioural issue, the manager takes over.

Many players don’t fall into this category and understand their responsibilities, but plenty don’t.

It is not just professional sportsmen in team sports; you see plenty of “entitlement behaviour” in other sports.

The worry I have is the lack of grounding many young, professional sportsmen have these days. Twenty years ago, players had jobs because they didn’t earn enough from sport; it kept them grounded.

These days sport is their full-time profession and many have little contact with the community apart from after-game functions and school visits.

From my observation, these problems are not as prevalent in women’s sports, where players generally earn less from sport than their male counterparts. They have jobs; they often have families to raise. They have less time on their hands to get into trouble.

Perhaps there is a lesson here worth heeding.

IN my previous column, I wrote about the lack of crowds this season at Canberra Stadium for the Raiders and the Brumbies. I have received many e-mails saying that despite the experience of watching live sport, sitting on plastic seats on a cold, wet night at Canberra Stadium was not everybody’s idea of a good time compared to watching it live on pay television at home.


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Tim Gavel
Journalist and ABC sports broadcaster

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