Speaking Your Mind….

The wonderful thing about this country of ours is the ability to hold near and dear to the right to free speech as granted to us in the Bill of Rights.  Obviously I am a proponent of said right as I am the author of this “free” blog here.  However, as we all know, there are some limitations to the freedom such as the proverbial yelling of “fire” in a crowded theater. 

But where exactly do we draw these lines?  What are the mitigating factors involved?  Does it matter the audience you are talking to?

Clearly, there has to be some distinct rules and both of the written and unwritten variety.  For example, one cannot go into a courtroom screaming profanities at the judge, jury, attorney, plaintiff, defendant, and/or witnesses without likely being held in contempt.  Police often will not allow themselves to be berated by a suspect or convict.  While there is likely no written rule, one would certainly not condone improper language in the church either.  Students need to certainly address school officials a certain way or risk insubordination troubles.  There are many more that could be described here, but I believe my point of there being some definite exceptions to the general rule of freedom of speech, right?

Of course, I must have brought this whole topic up for a specific reason and I will get into that now.  I recently ran across a video of a school official scolding a student in a “mini tirade” laced with profanity.  This just happened to be aired on local news stations as well as on the internet.  What raised my attention is the fact that many people praised it as exactly what that student needed and a life lesson taught well.  That student in this scenario just happened to also be an athlete and it was his coach that was talking to him right before a big game.  I began to wonder if that praise would have been so loud had it just been a teacher in a class cursing at one of the students right before their big exam?  Somehow I don’t think so…

As a coach in my own right, I know very well the pressures to win and succeed every year despite extenuating factors that are present.  I am also very well aware that times have certainly changed and kids act more and more like adults at earlier ages, perhaps a result of less time spent being with their parents as a kid, the relative youth of the parents, best friends as parents, or any other mitigating factors.  Therefore, they seem to understand things differently and are generally a less respectful generation. 

That said, what happened to the times when adults sought to change kids as opposed to conforming to them.  We have more school officials, pastors, parents, mentors, etc. adapting their behavior to meet the child.  What happened to teaching them the way to go AND showing them yourself as the example.  Not just in the scenario described, but in other questionable behavior that a kid may show.  Many adults are now walking around with pants sagging, gaudy jewelry “blinging”, speaking slang, music blaring, etc. trying to be “cool”, “young”, “hip”, “down”, or whatever you want to call it.  Is any of that “wrong” in and of itself?  Not at all, but when they are not taught the appropriate time and place for things, abuse is inevitable.

There used to be a time where the adults, to include coaches, really sought to stand apart from the individual or group that they were the leader/mentor of.  One attribute of that group does not make one a member of it, but my concern is that it is a sign of a general trend of confirmation and acceptance of all behavior that is prevalent in the world as a whole today.  For example, there are churches that are having “club nights” on some Sunday evenings.  I know that some may think that is a good thing and they are really reaching out, but what happened to reaching out with what you have and not reaching for what they have?  It doesn’t make any sense really.  If you’re trying to help someone, does it make sense to reach out for their life preserver?

As a coach, there will never be any player that has played for me that can tell you I disrespected them at any time.  I pride myself in that.  There will never be any player that will tell you that I did the very opposite of what I told them to do.  I do not curse at my kids because I feel it is disrespectful if done to me, but how could I expect true respect if I don’t give it?  Because I am the coach gives me some assumed power, but respect is truly earned both ways.  I don’t want my players scared of me, I want them to know that I will just about break my neck for them, but at the same time have the respect to know that I mean exactly what I say and will carry out proper punishment when necessary.  That to me is true “freedom of speech”, not the ability to say what you want, but rather the skill to say exactly what’s needed in the appropriate manner to set someone free from what may be holding them back…I know I can find another way other than profanity, especially since one of my mentors long ago told me that using it meant my vocabulary may be limited.  I do not have to conform to them to reach them.  I will continue to throw my own life line out to them, whether they grasp hold is up to them.  If I can reach just one, I have done my job…