Editor's Pick Special Reports Sports 

Coaching dirty

Remember the 1984 martial arts drama movie Karate Kid, which earned Pat Morita an Oscar nomination and helped launch the career of Ralph Macchio?

In a key scene in the movie, the lead character Daniel La Russo unexpectedly reaches the semi-finals of a youth karate championships. The head coach of a rival Dojo, John Kreese, worried that Daniel might make it to the finals, instructs his student Bobby Brown to disable Daniel with an illegal kick to the knee. Bobby reluctantly does so and is disqualified.

The movie raised the question as to whether coaches should encourage dirty tactics to win at any cost.

That may have been fiction, but, cases of coaches instructing their charges to commit such travesty in real life are more common than reported.

The Japanese sports fraternity is in quite an uproar over similar case recently.

It was over an intentionally late, dangerous tackle by a Nihon University American football player, Taisuke Miyagawa on a rival quarterback Kosei Okuno during a Kanto Collegiate Football Association last May.

The tackle was made well after he had already thrown the ball and Okuno was hospitalised with knee and spinal injuries.

Miyagawa claimed that he was instructed by the coaches to make the tackle. The coach, Masato Uchida and his assistant Tsutomu Inoue have been banned for life while another assistant coach has been relieved of his duties with the team.

Experts in Japan say that the case reflects the pathology of Japanese society. They believe that the offending player must also be seen as a victim as he was at the mercy of the coaches.

The sum reason they give can be summarised as: Disobey the coach and lose your place in the team. Lose your place in the team and lose your athletic scholarship. Lose your scholarship and lose your place in the university.

They believe the structure demanding obedience is a common denominator in the Japanese sporting scene. And with the coaches also under pressure to deliver results, they too start condoning anything to ensure the team wins, even if it goes against ethics, morality and norm.

The problem is not confined to Japan, or to just certain sports. Whether it is rugby, football, hockey, martial arts or even basketball players are encouraged to break the rules to gain advantage over their rivals.

Should we be livid with such infractions only when it results in injuries?

Coaches and players are expected to play according to rules but there are many instances when they ignore the rules to gain an unfair advantage.

When Sergio Ramos brought down Mohamed Salah during the Champions League Final last month, resulting in a serious injury to the later, fans were enraged.

But, there were a total of 18 fouls committed by Liverpool and five by Real Madrid in that match that not many of us were particularly outraged with.

Were all these violations just mistakes or deliberately made by the players or was part of the manager’s tactical ploy.

Or how about the number of time NBA players, commit fouls in the closing stages of closely fought games for “tactical reasons” that fans relish in?

Or how about the times when coaches encourage their charges to use performance-enhancing drugs?

Failure is one of the most defining features of elite sports and this is a double edged sword for athletes.

Earlier this year, Australian cricketers confessed to ball tampering in a desperate plot hatched by captain Steve Smith and senior players as they saw the third test against South Africa slipping away.

At the 2002 Austrian GP, race leader Rubens Barrichello was ordered by Ferrari to allow teammate Michael Schumacher to overtake him and win.

There was also the time when Schumacher and Aryton Senna collided with their opponents to ensure title wins in 1994 and 1990 respectively.

How often have we missed instances when coaches have demanded players to break the rules to ensure victory?

How often have we applauded tactical breaking of rules that allowed our favourite team or player win?

Coaching dirty is deeply entrenched in the sporting system. Until coaches and athletes believe in the sanctity of playing according to rules it would continue to be the norm.

Related posts

Leave a Comment