I started playing volleyball when I was a young girl and continued playing on teams until I was a sophomore in high school. What I did not realize then was the importance belonging to a team has on the formation of young people.
Teams instill commitment, pride, teamwork and confidence in players. Undoubtedly, the coach is the most integral part of a team. These leaders have the power to shape the lives of young people.
Coaches teach players why commitment and teamwork is essential. They can boost confidences and encourage young people to take pride in their performances. These all correlate to the way young people conduct themselves outside of the sport. Because of this, coaches need to be held to a high standard. The way they conduct themselves and speak to players has the potential to have a lasting impact.
Bismarck High School’s hockey team was in the news last month after its coaching staff, led by Mike Peluso, resigned after the state tournament. Peluso tweeted that he “saw things that happened to other coaches this year” and that he did not want “something like this to happen to us.”
Peluso’s resignation came after the Grand Forks Red River hockey coach resigned after being placed on administrative leave for misconduct relating to derogatory and intimidating language. The Fargo Davies hockey coach also stepped down in February.
Peluso clarified on social media that the BHS hockey staff did not do anything wrong. In a podcast with Joel Heitkamp, Peluso said the staff was not stepping down to “hide anything.” He noted the staff had always wanted their players to leave as “better hockey players” and “better human beings.”
While the specific circumstances of the BHS hockey staff’s resignation may be unknown, the situation presents a worthy discussion on the culture of North Dakota sports.
Obviously sports have a lot of passion involved and it is easy to get fired up at times. However, that does not mean coaches should have free rein on the language they use. There is an important difference between constructive criticism conducive to improving performance and disregard for the respect of others -- namely young people.
It is unacceptable for coaches to use tactics that intimidate, purposely embarrass or degrade players. None of those things will produce the development of skills or heightened performance.
Most sports do require a certain level of aggression, but it is impermissible for coaches to demonstrate aggressive demeanors and use derogatory language. Doing so will distress young people while reinforcing that behavior as they develop into adults within our community. There is no way of telling how detrimental those tactics could be to a player in the long term.
Coaches have a big role that should not be taken lightly. But, people who can fill the role in a more positive manner should replace those crossing the lines. As a community, we must expect nothing less for young people.