Monday, September 30, 2013

Monday's Musings on Sports - Being in Control or Being a Control Freak

It happens every Sunday in the fall and winter. There are stories galore from the NFL about players who clash with their coaches. More often than not, its the player trying to dictate terms to the coach, or the player showing unhappiness about being relegated to the second team. But yesterday, a story broke involving Tampa Bay Buccaneers Head Coach Greg Schiano which leads me to question whether he was exercising control or being a control freak.

After a nondescript college career, Schiano first drew media attention when he was the head coach of Rutgers University. Although Rutgers had not been known to be a Division I power, after a few years as coach Schiano led them to an upset of Pittsburgh and subsequently to bowl games and national rankings in 2006-2008. Some of this was certainly due to having star talent such as Ray Rice and Kenny Britt. But Schiano also drew praise for his leading of the team and the attitude that he infused into his players.

Following the 2011 college season, Schiano accepted a job as the Head Coach of the Bucs. Not long after Schiano began coaching the Bucs, stories began to percolate about Schiano, many of which were not complimentary. Within the first few weeks of the 2012 season, Michael Silver of Yahoo sports broke a story about how Schiano was hated by NFL scouts while Schiano was at Rutgers, because he would deal with the pro scouts in a condescending manner and left them to wait for no apparent reason. (The full story can be found here - 

The Silver story followed the infamous kneel down or victory formation incident at the end of a game between the Bucs and the Giants in the second week of the season. As the Giants were taking the final snap in victory formation, Schiano ordered his players to crowd the line and as result a Giants O-lineman was pushed back into Eli Manning. While technically not illegal, it was certainly in violation of the unwritten rules of the game and it garnered Schiano much negative publicity, also in large part because he was unrepentant and defiant.

The most recent story involving Schiano took place this weekend and involved his former star QB - Josh Freeman. As the Bucs were winless in their first three games, Schiano made a change at QB and inserted rookie Mike Glennon as the starter. However, rather than relegate Freeman to the bench in order to chart plays or serve as a sounding board for Glennon, Freeman was seated in the press box. The how and why Freeman wound up in the press box is far from clear. As reported by Jay Busbee of Yahoo's Shutdown Corner blog, while Schiano claimed that it was a mutual decision that Freeman not sit on the sidelines, Freeman claimed that he was given no choice by Schiano. (The full story can be found here -

Whether parent, teacher, boss or coach, one needs to be aware of the difference between giving direction and dictating terms through the exercise of absolute control in humiliating fashion. At times, one must know when to step away or ease off so that the student/player/child does not feel put down. 

The concept of not requiring absolute control to the bitter end can be seen in the end of Sefer Bamidbar and the beginning of Sefer Devarim. In Parshas Va'eschanan, Moshe prays 515 prayers that he be allowed to enter the land of Israel, but Hashem says no. Chazal teach that Moshe even offered to be just one of the people, rather than the leader, if he would only be allowed to enter the land of Israel. Again, Hashem denies Moshe's request and instead tells Moshe that he would be allowed one more mission and then he would die. One would think that if Moshe really wanted to hang onto control he would have prolonged the battle or even pushed off the war, so that he could lead a little longer. However, Moshe took to the battle quickly and did not try to use his position to his advantage. Indeed, the following sections of the Torah recount the history and Moshe's final speech to his people, before he allowed Joshua to take over as leader.

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