It happens on the soccer field. It happens on the basketball court. It happens in PE classes. It happens in our Armed Services and probably got its start there. It even happens on the track. And IT drives me crazy. IT is the use of running as punishment.
As an athlete or parent of an athlete you have probably seen it or experienced it yourself. You are at soccer practice and your team is goofing off. The coach has had it and so he/she sends the team out to run laps. Or you are late for basketball practice so while the rest of the team does warm up drills you are sent out to run around the gym 2 times. And my favorite of all is the PE teacher who has the kids do pushups who aren’t behaving. I thought I had mellowed out on my frustration with this until I recently witnessed another misuse of fitness as punishment. I caught the tail end of a practice (sport, location, etc. need not be revealed) where several of the players were running “lines” while a few were standing and watching. I asked why this was and was informed that the team that won the last practice game didn’t have to do the run. What is this teaching about our view of exercise? The losers do drills and the winners watch? When in reality the reason the winners are winners are that they DO the drills and they work hard and it pays off!
Why are coaches, teachers and fitness professionals using running (and exercise in general) as a punishment? What message is this sending to the kids about how the ambassadors of sport and fitness feel about exercise? No doubt my friends, that running is hard and so are pushups, burpees, raising kids and most everything else in life that is worth the effort. This concept of hard work should be celebrated instead of used as punishment. Wouldn’t we be better served if we could find a different punishment for misbehaving athletes? Pick up trash around the field or gym? Sit out the first 10 minutes of the next game? Go sit in the corner by yourself for 15 minutes. Go play chess for an hour. Stop-I am kidding! Chess shouldn’t be used as punishment-it is really closer to torture.
What’s the solution? I believe it is not a matter of changing how coaches are coaching but simply in the message they are delivering. A coach should use running laps to settle down his/her athletes that are distracted and not focusing. Running has a way of settling restlessness and sharpening our focus. A coach should send kids out to run laps to settle them down a bit. Just don’t call it punishment. Tell the athletes why they are running; it will sharpen your focus. It will settle some of your extra energy. It will warm you up. All this is true and accomplishes the same task but with a different message about exercise.
I came across a story about Deangelo Williams, an NFL player with the Steelers this year, who grew up with coaches using exercise as punishment. He said that every time a kid got “punished” and had to do push-ups, suicide runs, laps around the field, etc. he would join in with them because he didn’t want to miss an opportunity to get extra conditioning and certainly didn’t want any other kids getting an advantage because they were doing work while he watched.
In conclusion; I have a great appreciation for our youth coaches and PE teachers. I have been a coach and know that it is a huge amount of work for a little amount of money (if any). I have seen how coaches have changed people’s lives and instilled a lifelong love of fitness and athletics in our youth. Keep this love of sports and activity alive by showing kids how hard work and physical discomfort are not punishment but necessary aspects of achieving great success in sports and in life.
Run on my friends.