Sep 20

Sport Coaching Leadership Part 1

I have been guilty on many days of putting off tasks.  But the coaching issues rising within the speed skating community was just the gift to help me start my blog series on sport coaching leadership.

It certainly gains lots of national attention when a large number of elite speed skaters, including Olympic medalists, come together to officially complain about the coaching style of a national-level coach. The athletes claim that coach Jae Su Chun and his two primary assistants repeatedly routinely insulted and humiliated them.  While the coaches were able to achieve international results, the athletes have had enough of this behavior.

Some of the allegations of this poor coaching behavior include:

  • slamming an athlete into a wall
  • calling one female athlete a “fat cow”
  • instructing an athlete to sabotage a competitor’s skates

Wow! The first allegation is called “assault” and is a felony offense. Where does this behavior come from?  Some claim in this case that is a cultural issue.  But we all know we have our fair share of abusive coaches right here in the ole USA.

Joe Ehrmann, author of InsideOut Coaching, calls this coaching model “..the dictator: my way or the highway…”  He attributes the rise of this coaching leadership style to lessons learned by hundreds of thousands of American men who have served in our military services over the past few decades.  As a retired naval officer, that leadership style is popular in the military especially during boot camp where new military personnel transition to military life.  While appropriate in those situations, it is not  in sport coaching.  Okay, one exception–when a coach needs to establish control during an emergency or when an unsafe situation has surfaced.  There is no time for debate when lives are at stake or vulnerable to severe injury.

If you are a coach seeking alternatives to the extreme command or “my way or the highway” leadership model, I recommend you check out Joe’s website, Coach for America, to explore more athlete-centric coaching leadership models.




  1. Jodi Murphy

    As you point out, sometimes the “my way or the highway” attitude is appropriate, especially if you are working with an athlete that likes to cause trouble and ruin it for everyone else. But there is a big difference between being a strong leader and a bully. What these athletes are saying their coach did is definitely crossing that line.

  2. Sam Callan

    I would be careful of jumping to conclusions until an investigation is complete. Other speedskaters have refuted these claims. I recall an incident with Duke lacrosse.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>