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Growing Leaders Blog

on Leading the Next Generation


A Coach Who Stuck to His Guns

Yesterday a story broke, that I just had to comment on.

A football coach at Union High School in Utah took bold action to get the attention of his players after Friday night’s loss. Coach Matt Labrum suspended his entire team.


After discovering several of his players were cyber-bullying another student, and that nearly all of his team members were acting disrespectful to teachers and even cutting classes—he felt the boys needed to earn back the privilege to play football. So he told them so, and suspended them all.

Football Coach Suspends Whole Team

This all came after he let them know he was unhappy with their conduct and that it was unbecoming of them in the influential role they enjoyed as football players. Instead of practice this week for Friday’s game, the players had been performing community service. It didn’t do the trick—so he added a suspension. He gave his players a sheet entitled: “Union Football Character,” detailing the next steps the boys would need to take to be reinstated.

I am certain there are more angles to this story, and that I don’t know all the details, but allow me to detail why my hat is off to Coach Labrum.

When young athletes get the idea that they are indispensible; when they become cocky and disrespect others (whether they are fellow students or faculty); when they start believing that sports is the centerpiece of the universe, which allows them to do whatever they want off the field—this is the time for action.

Some caring adult must show some backbone to stand up to it.

But where do young athletes get this idea that they’re untouchable prima donna’s who can act this way?  Uh—do you think maybe it’s us, adults?  For years, we’ve excused immature behavior in student-athletes (and sometimes pro athletes) and allowed them to continue using their gifts on the field, when they don’t deserve to do so.

Why? Because we love to be entertained. We don’t want to give up seeing those youngsters throw or catch or kick that ball. So…we make excuses for them.

This not only sends a wrong signal, in my opinion, it’s a mild case of child abuse.

This is the kind of thing that enables them to grow up brats, and continue acting like “boys” even when they’ve turned 30 or 35. If you’re wondering why we read about millions of students who act entitled, arrogant and narcissistic, then here is your answer. We allow them to. We don’t have the backbone to stop the game, until they correct themselves.

Thanks Coach Matt Labrum for getting fed up with inappropriate behavior in your athletes and reminding them that humans can’t act this way, no matter how well they throw a ball or how fast they can run. It’s a reminder to us, who say we care about kids: if you want them to mature into adults with character, you must be willing to give up the team for a while. We say we care like this—but do we?

Sometimes I think we’re more concerned about building their biceps than their backbone. We get far more preoccupied with W’s and L’s than with the loss of their moral intelligence. We become more focused on cash than character. We need a reminder of what it’s all about.

Thanks for the reminder Coach Labrum.


HabitudesForAthletesWant to prepare athletes for excellence in sports and life? Check out Habitudes for Athletes.




photo credit: BabyBare11 via photopin cc


  1. charlene.fonseca on September 27, 2013 at 7:13 am

    Thank YOU for the reminder, Tim. I think that we adults get the feeling very quickly that there are so many odds against our children that we are going to be one that isn’t, and perhaps we overcompensate? Yes, if we don’t develop a standard with our own, then there will be a complete wash-out of backbone.

    • Tim Elmore on September 30, 2013 at 8:17 am

      Absolutely, so true. As adults, we often have the very best of intentions, but we get preoccupied with results. Sometimes we fail to see the danger behind making these exceptions for a kid’s athletic success versus moral success. Thanks for sharing your comment Charlene!

  2. Blane on September 27, 2013 at 11:51 am

    If students are behaving in a classroom setting in a similar manner as these athletes, do you think that there is a method that can be used “to get the attention of” those students?

  3. richard on September 27, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    I am glad he decided to stand up. Being from Utah I know that this coach had to take a lot of flak from the parents, teachers, and other coaches because the love of football runs deep. I hope this man’s actions spark a national debate about excusing young athletes inappropriate behavior.

    • Tim Elmore on September 30, 2013 at 8:29 am

      I agree, Richard. It is refreshing to see a coach instill morals and values ahead of personal success, athletic performance, and school pride. Thanks for the comment.

  4. Dalen on September 28, 2013 at 10:53 am

    Thanks for sharing this story. I believe the message coach Labrum was trying to send may have come through stronger if he had suspended his team after a win. Doing it after a loss may send the subtle message that his number one concern is still just about winning.

    • Tim Elmore on September 30, 2013 at 8:35 am

      Perhaps this is true. It’s hard to truly know being on the outside of the situation. I personally feel that limiting the players’ ability to participate until changes are made, demonstrates an urgent call for action. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts!

  5. Rahilah Hijabi Taylor on September 28, 2013 at 10:59 am

    good job coach. we needed more coaches/ teachers/ adults/ people in authoritative positions willing to hold the younger generation accountable. truth be told, with this generation, they honestly don’t know what they don’t know.

    • Tim Elmore on September 30, 2013 at 8:56 am

      Well put, Rahilah. It is up to us, to hold these kids accountable and teach them these important morals and values to then pass on to the next generation. Thanks for the comment!

  6. Elizabeth on September 29, 2013 at 12:06 am

    Tough lessons require tough teachers to teach those lessons. How often do teachers miss opportunities to present a real life lesson to kids who desperately need one? The younger generation needs their elders to have the backbone to say something as simple as “no”. These football players will probably look back on their coach with much more respect than if he had given no punishment for what they were doing.

    • Tim Elmore on September 30, 2013 at 9:08 am

      Agreed, thanks for your comment Elizabeth. The truth is, the majority of those football players will not play football after high school. Maybe a couple of them will play in college, but football will end, while morals and values will stick with us for the rest of our lives. I’m glad that this coach holds that perspective.

  7. timage on September 29, 2013 at 10:41 am

    Great move by Coach Labrum. I hear many coaches talk about character and rewarding good behavior but it’s difficult to stick to their guns when a win-loss record is on the line. Coach Labrum has prepared these young men for a lot more than football. We live in a world that places people in positions of authority or arenas of recognition that exceed their depth of character. This is a coach who understands that character and capability go hand in hand.

    • Tim Elmore on September 30, 2013 at 9:09 am

      Absolutely, it is encouraging to see that Coach Labrum may have even put his own job in jeopardy, for the betterment of his players’ character. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  8. Kelly on November 7, 2013 at 9:20 am

    Thank you for this website…the articles are very usefull!! I am researching leadership resources in order to get certified in character coaching. Habitudes for athletes is outstanding. You have got my attention 🙂

    • Tim Elmore on November 7, 2013 at 10:11 am

      Thanks Kelly! If you have any questions on Habitudes for Athletes feel free to reach out to Chloe at [email protected].

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A Coach Who Stuck to His Guns