Written by Joe Kleinsasser Tuesday, 24 April 2012 15:57
Coaches hate losing. Often during games, a coach can show utter disgust at a lack of effort or a loss of focus.
While much has been said about coaches who berate players in practice, during games or in the locker room, there is another tactic that may be even more difficult for players to handle.
Call it the stare.
Players will do almost anything to avoid the stare because there is some truth to the saying that looks can kill.
One wonders if former K-State basketball coach Frank Martin can stare through a wall. The stare is a staple of his sideline demeanor.
Jamar Samuels, one of his student-athletes, was quoted as saying, “You have to treat it a lot like the sun. Looking at it for more than a few seconds is dangerous to your health.”
Some players would rather get a tongue-lashing because it simply means the coach is angry. The stare can mean so much more. In addition to anger, the stare can mean frustration or extreme disappointment.
“I’ll take anything over the stare,” Samuels said. “When he’s out there just looking at you like that, man, he’s got you. You know you messed up.”
A lot of coaches have that look when they call a timeout because they are upset with the way their team is playing. Players walking to the huddle know they better beware. They’re either in for a tongue lashing or the stare.
And it’s not just a guy thing.
On one occasion this season, Tennessee’s Shekinna Stricklen walked toward the bench and into harm’s way.
She had committed her third foul with more than 14 minutes to play in a close game on a foolish push-off, and compounded that mistake by missing a contested shot.
As she was headed toward her seat on the bench, Stricklen encountered the stare.
One writer said longtime Vols Coach Pat Summitt has melted metal and parboiled players with the stare. Even though Summitt was diagnosed with early-onset dementia last year, she could still pick her spots for one-on-one motivation.
Vols associate head coach Holly Warlick said, “That’s a sign Pat is still coaching. She is all in it. She knows what’s going on. It was huge when she got on Stricklen like that. It totally turned her game around.”
After being scorched by the stare, Stricklen returned to the court four minutes later, responding with 16 points. Tennessee won the game.
“A lot of people get scared when she stares at them. Not me. It helps me focus,” Stricklen said. “It means a lot because you know how much she cares. I just want to give everything I can for her.
“She said, ‘We need you and we need you to step up right now.’ I responded.”
Players aren’t alone in getting the stare. Officials often are the beneficiary of the stare after a questionable call.
Sports writers are potential targets for the stare in post-game news conferences.
As a basketball official, I usually choose to avoid looking at a coach when being on the receiving end of the stare—although on one occasion I used a different tactic.
After I made a call that apparently caused his blood pressure to rise, the coach stood on the sideline with crossed arms, giving me the stare. I could see or feel his stare as I reported the foul at the scorers’ table. After reporting the foul, I walked over, then stood next to him and said something like, “I take it you didn’t particularly care for that call.”
The coach just shook his head and I walked back to my position on the court.
Not all coaches use the stare. Some are yellers and screamers. Some prefer showing their gymnastic ability or temporarily turn into drama kings and queens. Others are floor stompers.
As the saying goes, different strokes for different folks.