Coach Pulls Teen From Pool By Ponytail & Opens Discipline Debate

Jeanne Sager
7

swim teamRemember playing sports in high school? When a pat on the back from the coach could be the difference between being completely devastated about a bobbled ball in the outfield and encouraged that you "almost got the girl out at the plate"? When you were terrified by the coach who got up in your face and shoved your chest when he was mad at you for screwing up? Welcome to the lesson of bad touch and good touch.

Because an assistant coach has already resigned his position with the Roseville High School (California) swim team for some REALLY bad touching. He pulled a teenage girl out of the pool by her ponytail because he was angry that she'd done less than her best (resulting in what has been termed an "intentional disqualification"). Did you just grab your scalp at the mere thought?

It doesn't MATTER what the girl did wrong here, people. That was bad touch. That's why the coach is already gone, resigned before the school could can his sorry behind. But as it always does in the parenting world, the debate is raging on even with the guy out of the picture -- was this just some bad behavior or actual assault?

I'm saddened that this is even up for debate. That visceral reaction you had to being pulled by a ponytail out of a pool makes it pretty clear that it's assault. But the fact that parents WOULD call it into question, that we've reached that point in society, makes me wonder if they missed the "good touch, bad touch" lecture in kindergarten.

To expect no touching -- ever -- between coach and kid is crazy. (For the record this has nothing to do with pedophilia. For all the stories about the creepy gym teacher with child porn loaded on his computer, we have hundreds, no, THOUSANDS of coaches who are all about teaching kids over touching kids.) It's not really feasible. The touching that comes when a coach steps in to teach a kid to say "choke up on the bat a little" or a pat on the shoulder as you walk off the field isn't just impossible to avoid, it's PART of school sports. It's "good" touch.

But discipline is not good touch. Discipline isn't physical in most classrooms. It shouldn't be physical in most gymnasiums (or pools). Coaches, while often employed by a school, don't seem to fit the same bill as teachers or administrators. They're interacting with kids after school hours, sometimes off school premises. And that more informal setting blurs the edges between "coach" and "parent," between "buddy" and "authority figure who has a responsibility to be a caregiver but also a disciplinarian." They have more leeway, and that leeway can get them in trouble.

So here's what IS feasible. Parents make up their darn minds about what constitutes good and bad touch with our kids. We can't just be talking about something sexual. It CAN'T be acceptable for a coach to grab a girl by her ponytail and have it written off as "bad behavior."

Would you allow a coach to physically discipline your child? Was this coach in the right or the wrong here?


Image via wsilver/Flickr

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