Coach Miles confronted by critic

By January 23, 2012 Sports In Focus

Former New Orleans Saints quarterback Bobby Hebert harshly criticized LSU coach Les Miles in the postgame news conference following his team’s loss to Alabama in the Bowl Championship Series title game.

Hebert, a host on a local radio station in New Orleans, opened Miles’ news conference with a question about not using backup quarterback Jarrett Lee as starter Jordan Jefferson struggled to move the offense. Before Miles answered, Hebert continued, “Now, I know Alabama’s defense is dominant, but come on, that’s ridiculous. Five first downs! I’ll tell you the fans’ standpoint: How can you not maybe push the ball down the field and bring in Jarrett Lee? So what if you get a pick-six?” Miles still did not get a chance to answer, so he just kept staring at Hebert, who also happens to be the father of LSU senior center/guard T-Bob Hebert, a former starter for the Tigers who played sparingly in recent games. “I know the pass rush of Alabama. But not pushing the ball down field, considering you have (wide receivers) Rueben Randle and Odell Beckham Jr. — there’s no reason why five first downs. You have a great defense, but that’s ridiculous.”

Sugar Bowl spokesman John Sudsbury later apologized to LSU associate athletics director Michael Bonnette for Hebert’s behavior. “It was very disrespectful. I told Michael I was real sorry it happened,” Sudsbury said. “We don’t want to credential people who go into a press conference and act like a fan. Multiple people told me it was not professional. It was disappointing. We don’t want the coaches who come to these games to be treated like that.” Bonnette said. “The part of Bobby that is a fan and a parent came out more than the part of him that is a reporter. Using the word ‘ridiculous,’ I thought was not professional. He was emotional and really mad.”

While criticism is to be expected by public figures like coaches, it’s not always seen or heard by a national audience.

Former legendary football coach Tom Osborne wrote about being criticized during his first season as head coach at Nebraska in his book, “More Than Winning.” He was criticized in his first season for:

• being too conservative in our 10-9 win over Kansas.

• being too aggressive in going for two points in out 13-12 loss to Missouri

• gambling too much in going for the touchdown rather than the field goal in the 17-17 tie against Oklahoma State

• being too nice.

That first year his team went 9-2-1 which was exactly the same record as the previous year under Bob Devaney. Fans didn’t care that many of the great players from that team had graduated. Even after his team beat Texas in the Cotton Bowl, many fans were still critical of the first year coach. Right after the Cotton Bowl victory, Texas head coach Darryl Royal, came to the Nebraska locker room to congratulate Osborne’s team. As he walked out of the locker room, he said to Osborne, “What a coach needs to do after losing a bowl game is just slide away for a few days and let things simmer.” That’s advice Osborne took several times during his career.

There are at least three reasons a coach can expect criticism.

• A coach can expect criticism because of his own sin, which will be present in his or her heart no matter how mature or well meaning he or she is.

• A coach can expect criticism because people (fans, players and media) can be proud and ungrateful.

• A coach can expect criticism because we live in a sinful and fallen world.

Since coaches should expect criticism, what can they do besides taking Darryl Royal’s advice to “slide away for a few days”?

First, recognize that criticism is part of God’s sanctification process. In other words, this is the tool or process that God uses to help coaches grow in their faith.  Warring against our sinful habits and seeking to be Christlike in character is usually referred to as sanctification.

When I’m coaching basketball, I wish it was true that my spiritual maturity happened from encouragement rather than painful criticism. However, what is true for me is often true for other coaches as well. I have most often grown in faith and humility through criticism and correction. When God shows me the pride and sin in my life that’s when I have seen spiritual growth most often in my life.

If you’re a coach, you will be criticized and corrected. Count on it! However, prepare yourself to see it as God’s means for your sanctification. How you respond to criticism (both from fans and friends) is important. Once you can begin to see it as a mercy from God to help you grown in your faith, you will be able to see past the negative criticism and grow in your faith.

Discussion:

1. What stood out to you in the article?

2. Have you ever been publically criticized? What was your response? Would you respond differently now?

3. Former UCLA coach John Wooden said, “You can’t let praise or criticism get to you. It’s a weakness to get caught up in either one.” Do you agree or disagree. Explain.

4. Have you experienced growth in your Christian life most often from criticism or encouragement?

5. Read 2 Peter 3:18, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” What does this verse teach about seeking to grow in Christlikeness until we die?

6. Progressive sanctification involves our practice of spiritual disciplines, such as reading Scripture, praying and fellowshipping with other believers. It also includes putting to death the sinful deeds of the body (see Romans 8:13). It also involves dependence on Christ for the power to do these things. With the tension between depending upon Christ and working hard to become Christlike, what will keep us going?

7. The gospel is the assurance that a Christian has died to the guilt of sin and that there is no condemnation in Jesus Christ. How does this motivate us to keep growing in the Christian faith? This is the reason to “preach the gospel to ourselves every day.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Gordon Thiessen has served on staff with the Nebraska FCA since 1986. Currently, he is the Director or Training and Resources for the Nebraska FCA. He has a weekly blog, Sports In Focus. You can subscribe to the podcast at itunes and the blog here.He has also founded Cross Training Publishing (www.crosstrainingpublishing.com). He has written Team Studies on Character and edited The Athletes Topical Bible. He is married to Terri and has four grown children. You can find out more information about the Nebraska FCA at www.nebraskafca.org.

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