After the Mike Rice scandal at Rutgers, many coaches are wary of being too aggressive with the athletes under them.

Parents will be too willing to charge a coach with bullying their child if they feel their child isn’t getting enough playing time or if the coach chastises their kid for whatever reason.

Such is the quandary a coach has to face.

But do you feel coaches, in perhaps being aggressive, are trying to instill the best way they know how, some semblance of discipline in their young athletes; or are just being bullies?

Would you let your kid play for an aggressive coach?

And, I guess a reasonable question to ask is, “how aggressive is too aggressive?”

When high school coaches across New Jersey raise their voices at practice or punish players with wind sprints this year, the message might not be the only thing they worry about.
They might also fear for their jobs.

With the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act in place and memories of the Mike Rice coaching scandal at Rutgers lingering, the line between motivational coaching and abusive tactics is blurrier than ever in high school sports.

Shout at a player in front of teammates, hold a kid after practice for extra work or bark profanity and some parents could say their child is being bullied and prompt an investigation by the state. But use the same approach and others could see it as simply good, hard coaching.

Officials from the state’s governing body for high school athletics say they’re fielding more complaints about coaches than ever before, while some coaches say the recent emphasis on bullying has allowed vengeful parents angry over playing time an easier avenue to go after their jobs.

It begs the question: What is “normal” coaching in today’s high school sports?

New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association Executive Director Steve Timko said he receives “30 to 40 percent more phone calls from parents” complaining about coaches now compared to when he started with the organization 13 years ago. He said most involve concerns about players who were cut or allegedly aren’t getting a fair chance from the coach.

Many coaches and athletic directors say the days of the grizzled coach grabbing his players’ jerseys and spewing profanity are outdated and ineffective. Other practice staples of yesteryear such as limited water breaks or the brutal football tackling drill “Bull in the Ring” — in which a player’s name is called, his teammates surround him and he could be hit from any direction — are also no longer used, coaches say.

But some parents do see value in discipline and consequences.

“Kids need to be held accountable,” said Barry Inamoto, whose twin daughters, Caitlin and Jennifer, played softball for North Hunterdon the past three seasons. “It’s the coaches' job to hold them accountable for their actions. So do they play fair? Are they a good sportsman? And if not, there need to be consequences. If you made them run a couple laps, that’s fine. If you unfairly single them out and yell at them then I have a problem with that.”

In urban communities, coaches said the tactics sometimes need to be different. In Perth Amboy, football and wrestling coach Mike Giordano said some of his athletes have never been seriously disciplined before getting to high school because of a lack of structure at home. He said some parents are pleased when he and his coaches are tough on players.

Nearly every coach admits to occasionally cursing or yelling at a player in practice. They say it can be a difficult dance between preparing their teams for intense games and being too hard on their players.

Coaches agree that times are changing, forcing many to temper their tactics or at least be more aware of today’s high school athlete. Most say that when they yell at a kid in practice, it’s important to pull the same player aside later, explain why it happened and give them encouragement.

And when all else fails, many coaches said they just think of their own children.

Given all the above, it’s easy to see why many prospective coaches would rather just not bother with being coaches at all.

But, coaching, being the dance it is, what with instilling a winning attitude in their young athletes, would have to be somewhat stern.

Someone who treats your child like his or her own. Stern but fair.

But how stern do you feel your kid’s coach needs to be; and would you allow your kid to play for a coach who, in your opinion, is aggressive?

Would you allow your kid to play sports for an aggressive coach?