Saturday, July 26, 2014

Whose Approach is Right--Texas Longhorns Head Coach Charlie Strong or Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin?

Texas Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong has been making headlines of late after supposedly kicking several players off the team (no official announcement has been made yet). As could be expected, the news has elicited a number of responses from fans, media, players, and coaches alike.

The one opinion that has garnered the most attention is that of his in-state rival, Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin.

Friday afternoon/evening a Twitter account dedicated to Texas A&M sports shared with the world part of Sumlin's philosophy when it comes to coaching college kids:

On its face, the tweet does appear to be a critique of Charlie Strong's rigid adherence to his rules and heavy hand when it comes to discipline. Many have certainly taken it that way and lashed out at Sumlin over all the arrests the team has had since Sumlin was put in charge.

To be fair to Sumlin, it was not a tweet sent by him nor was the comment made in regards to Strong. It has been something he has said often during speaking engagements. So while the comment is not a shot at Texas it does bring up an interesting point.

Whose approach is better? Is one better?

College football players are technically adults, but lets be real--they are kids trapped in incredibly physical and sometimes huge bodies. To some extent they all need help and guidance in order to continue on the path towards becoming an actual adult.

How coaches attempt to help them do just that--if they do--is up to them and each has his own way.

For Strong, it involves a pretty clear set of rules that if you fail to follow puts you at risk of being kicked off the team. It's kind of a tough love style, but we don't really know everything he does or tries to do for his players behind the scenes.

Sumlin has shown that he is reluctant to dismiss players from the team instead choosing to suspend them for a certain number of games and give them another chance. His philosophy appears to be more of as long as I'm around them and in their lives I can make a difference. Kids are going to make mistakes; kicking them off the team is not going to keep them from making them again.

Many have called Sumlin an enabler for that philosophy, but shouldn't the fault be on the player and not him? Coaches can influence players, but in the end the player still has to make the conscious decision to do whatever he does.

Strong's philosophy recognizes that players are in charge of their own destinies as well, but should they make a mistake that's it. They are done. Does the player learn from it? No, but his teammates (or former teammates) hopefully will.

So--which one is right? Are either right?

Actually-they are both right and wrong, but that is something that a coach can't help. It's an inherent problem when a person is in a teacher/coach position. Everyone learns in their own way. Some can adjust how they learn; other's can't (and not because they simply don't want to). That means the teacher has to figure out how to get through to each individual student (or in this case player).

The tough part is that coaches have to be fair and come up with a philosophy that treats everyone the same. They can't give one kid chance after chance and not another. A line has to be drawn somewhere. It's just a matter of figuring out where to draw it.

Does that mean some kids will not be reached, will make some mistakes, and need to be dismissed from the team? Sadly--yes, but that is just how it is in this imperfect world we live in.

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