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League of Fans Announces Campaign to Promote Humanistic Coaching Education Programs

Ralph Nader announced today that his League of Fans project is beginning a campaign calling for coaching education programs that promote humanistic coaching styles as an antidote to today’s autocratic coaching norm — which continues to predominate at all levels of sports. The announcement came in conjunction with the release of the League of Fans’ third report from its Sports Manifesto. The report is titled, “Sports World Needs More Humanistic Coaches.”

“We’ve been conditioned in this country that coaches – from the pros down to our youth leagues — have to adopt a Vince Lombardi coaching style: treat athletes inhumanely, and motivate them by force and fear,” said Nader. “That notion is archaic and barbaric. Our sports culture needs to evolve from the dark ages and transition to more humanistic coaching styles that enhance the overall sports experience for athletes while still striving to win games.”

Ken Reed, sports policy director for the League of Fans and author of the organization’s Sports Manifesto, said the commonly held belief that coaches need to be the stereotypical no-nonsense, kick ‘em in the butt, drill sergeant type of coach to be successful is a myth.

“The research shows that if you find a task fun you’ll perform better,” says Reed. “Studies link happiness and satisfaction with higher performance. The belief that coaches need to scream at players and treat them in a degrading way to win is not true. Sadly, it’s an ingrained part of our sports culture. If coaches in this country took more of a democratic and humanistic approach to coaching we would have fewer athletes dropping out of sports in their teens and happier, more satisfied athletes at all levels.”

Nader said John Gagliardi, the very successful head football coach at Saint John’s University in Minnesota, should be a model for all coaches, not Vince Lombardi or Bobby Knight.

“John Gagliardi is the winningest coach in college football history and one of the most humane as well,” said Nader. “He doesn’t carry a whistle or yell and scream. He has almost no physical contact in practices during the week, so his players are healthier and ready to play on Saturday. No blocking sleds, no wind sprints. His practices are limited to 90 minutes. Players love coming to practice and almost all of them graduate. He develops his athletes in a holistic, democratic, and humanistic way — and his teams win. He’s a positive example of what’s possible in the world of coaching.”

Reed said the problem of overbearing, sometimes tyrannical, authoritarian coaches is especially troublesome at the youth sports level where a win-at-all-costs (WAAC) mentality hinders the development of the whole child.

“Research has shown that a mastery approach to coaching gets the best out of athletes,” said Jim Thompson, executive director of Positive Coaching Alliance and author of the book, The Power of Double-Goal Coaching: Developing Winners in Sports and Life. “I am very supportive of League of Fans’ effort to eradicate win-at-all-cost coaching, especially for high school and youth athletes.”

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