In all of my 50 years of covering high school sports, one of the most amusing stories I witnessed involved the late Mendel Catholic football coach Lou Guida.
Guida was as successful as he was colorful and profane. He produced a Prep Bowl championship team in 1968 and sent several players to the Big 10.
After one victory, his team was celebrating in the locker room. After considerable revelry, Guida stepped to the middle of the room, asked for a moment of silence and called for a priest.
"Okay, Father, let's have the (blinking) prayer," Guida said.
I was reminded of Guida and other old-time coaches on Tuesday when I read a story in the Chicago Sun-Times about the Chicago Public Schools administration announcing a crackdown on coaches who slap, hit, push, shake, swat, choke, twist, headbang or paddle athletes and "display fits of temper" or curse at them.
Yelling, apparently, will continue to be permitted.
One well-known coach reportedly is being investigated by the Illinois High School Association for verbally abusing officials during a basketball game. His language wouldn't be tolerated in a jail.
I've seen football coaches slap players upside their helmets when they came off the field after fumbling the ball or jumping offside or throwing an interception or missing a block.
I've seen basketball players chew out players with salty language in front of their parents.
I may be naive. But I must admit in all of my 33 years of covering basketball in the Chicago Public League, I never was aware or made aware of any coach who indulged in paddling. In the wake of recent suspensions and firings of offenders, I am now told that it was accepted as a common practice.
But that was then and this is now. You don't have to slap or hit or shake or choke or headbang or paddle an athlete to get his attention or deliver a message, it says here. But coaches must be able to discipline their athletes. Without discipline and supervision, kids are unstructured and high school sports could be conducted on playgrounds.
How often have you read a story about a teenage athlete who looked upon his coach as a father figure? That's because, in my many cases, there is no father in the home, no fatherly guidance. The youngster relies on his coach for direction and positive influence.
Yelling is part of the game, like X's and O's. Sure, growing up, I had coaches who didn't yell very much. I remember one coach who never yelled at all. And he coached our baseball team to two straight championships. Maybe he didn't yell because we were so good that he didn't have to.
Yelling is a means of providing positive enforcement. You made a mistake and the coach wants you to know about it so you won't make the same mistake again. Passing a note in study hall isn't the same as getting in your face after jumping offside to cost your team a touchdown.
Yes, cursing at kids is inappropriate behavior and should be prohibited. But if coaches have to look over their shoulder every time they try to discipline an athlete to see if a parent is filing a lawsuit or a principal is calling for a lawyer, they can't do their jobs. High school sports can do without parents, not coaches.