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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

"Mean Coaches"

This video made the rounds on Facebook recently. It's turned out to be one of those odd things that made me think a lot more than I initially thought it would.

My initial reaction was, frankly, to laugh. Let's face it...the video is pretty funny, on a certain level. This coach has a cutting, if nasty, sense of humor, and his jokes play well. He reminded me, vaguely, of my first boxing coach, who also had a habit of swearing at and insulting his clientele on a regular basis. And, I will be honest, it reminded me of me at times. My coaching style fluctuates a lot depending on where I'm teaching, but when I'm running classes at Sityodtong...well, sometimes, this style creeps out.

Which is where I start getting all philosophical and introspective, of course.

The thing that struck me about this video is that, unlike with my first boxing coach (or myself), I can't tell how serious this guy is. My boxing coach warned me the first time I met him that he was likely to insult me and swear at me, but there was always a bit of a gleam in his eye when he was actually doing it; a little something in his posture or tone that told you that he was mostly putting on an act. Probably the greatest proof of that came when my younger sister came by with my father one day. Greg's traditional greeting ("What the fuck are YOU doing here?") quickly changed into a very polite "Oh, hello" when he saw there was a young girl present. It was a switch.

In my case...yeah, I swear a lot at Sityodtong. One of the other trainers and I used to give out the compliment "some of you are starting to suck less". But again, there's no malice behind it. It's just a coaching style that I learned and gradually fell into in that environment ( I coach the PDR COMPLETELY differently). I've often assumed that students understood I wasn't trying to be intentionally hurtful, though one or two have called me out on it.

But this is where the struggle comes.

I don't know that I particularly LIKE coaching that way. As I said, I don't do it all when I coach the PDR, because it's completely inappropriate for that environment.

There are things in that video that really bug me, and yet, ring true at the same time. That coach is absolutely right that most people are not equipped, either mentally or physically, to survive in the world of amateur (never mind professional) boxing. It is a rough, rough, sport: the roughest of the combat sports, in my opinion.

And does he know that none of the "Wall Street Nerds" who walk through his doors can handle it. Maybe some of them can. Sure, it might be just one, but he'll never know it. People surprise you sometimes.

The idea of a coach who doesn't believe in those who train under him really bugs me. Why would you train with a man like that?

In some ways, this video helped to clarify, or bring forth, an internal struggle I've been wrestling with about how I coach. I feel as though I'm very inconsistent--my coaching changes depending on subject, place, audience, etc. On a certain level, that's a good and necessary thing, but sometimes, I wonder if I'm too all over the place.

On the other hand, people keep coming back, so I may be doing something right. Time will tell.


Tex said...

What are your thoughts on a Muay Thai coach going off on one of his former students online? Basically, online bullying and harassing the former student. Keep in mind that this might be a Kru that was trained in Thailand through the Muay Thai institute and is supposed to be a teacher, as well as a professional, and claims to be an advocate against bullying.

Jake said...



That's kind of a vague and clearly very slanted question. It seems to me you're asking if it's okay for someone to cyber-bully someone else. To which the obvious answer is "no, no it is not."

But I don't know anything of the circumstances, the "going off", or anything else. Maybe this hypothetical Kru felt that he was defending a position, or exposing what he believes to be fraudulent claims of his former student. Maybe he had a bad day and lost his temper. Everyone does.

I will say this much; the fact that said Kru was trained in Thailand through the Muay Thai Institute is nice, but ultimately irrelevant. People should conduct themselves like, well, people, regardless of how what training they received or who printed out their fancy certificate. Being a decent human being is a human obligation, not one attached to a particular tradition or status.