We here at USA TODAY High School Sports love a good-natured debate. Every Wednesday, we'll invite you into our sometimes serious, sometimes light-hearted (but always passionate) takes on various topics that pertain to high school sports, and feature commentary from high school athletes. We invite everyone to sound off in the comments and on Twitter and Facebook. Go ahead, tell us why we're wrong. We'll try not to take it personally.
This week's question was inspired by a recent investigative report by the Des Moines (Iowa) School District, which suggested that a coach telling a student to run at practice could be guilty of inflicting corporal punishment on the student. In other words, telling an athlete to "hit a lap" could constitute bullying.
QUESTION: SHOULD COACHES BE ALLOWED TO ORDER EXTRA RUNNING AS PUNISHMENT FOR BAD BEHAVIOR OR POOR PERFORMANCE?
Jim Halley, Reporter
I like to run, so I don't consider running laps to be cruel and unusual punishment. However, from what I've seen, the best punishment for poor play or misbehavior is not getting to play. That's something that athletes respond to pretty quickly. If having to sit doesn't change behavior, why is the player even coming out for the sport?
Jason Jordan, Reporter
Given that they're not abusing their power, I definitely think that coaches should be able to dish out any type of punishment that they see fit. I played sports and we expected to get in trouble if we goofed off in class or if we didn’t execute on the field or court. I remember one game we were playing horribly and my coach had us get off of the bus after the game and run sprints in the dark. We weren’t happy, but we didn’t disagree with the punishment either. It’s just something that, as an athlete, you come to expect. I think saying the coach can’t punish you in that way undermines the coach on a lot of different levels.
Sarah Gearhart, Reporter
The only time running feels like punishment is during the last three miles of a marathon. Ha. Serious. While I don't mind allowing extra running, I think there are more effective ways to discipline bad behavior or a poor performance, such as making the athlete(s) sit out a game. That would induce a feeling far worse than what extra running ever could and would quickly teach me not to step out of line.
Scott Allen, Content Producer
The days of coaches telling players to "run 'til you puke" are hopefully a thing of the past, but to eliminate extra running as punishment altogether strikes me as extreme. What's next, forbidding coaches from telling a poor free throw shooter to spend an extra 15 minutes taking shots from the foul line? So long as the punishment doesn't jeopardize the athlete's safety, coaches should absolutely be allowed to order extra laps as punishment.
David Scott, Content Manager
Although I hate running, I think this is actually an appropriate punishment. With that said, how much running? I don’t think a coach should be able to make an athlete run for the entire practice or for an extended period of time. We have to look out for the athletes and their safety. The thing about running is no one really likes it, especially when you’re running because someone else is making you. So athletes are more likely to not make a mistake twice if they know that they will have to run. There are other punishments like not being able to play or participate, but that hurts the whole team and could be the difference between making the playoffs and not, which affects everyone.
NOW LET'S SEE WHAT A FEW STUDENT-ATHLETES AND COACHES HAVE TO SAY...
Cody Thomas, Class of 2013, Football, Colleyville Heritage (Colleyville, Texas)
The reality is that if you do something wrong your coach should have the right to punish you. You shouldn’t be doing things wrong anyway. No one has more control over you than your coach so yeah I think they should be able to tell you that you’ve got to run more sprints. I’ve been there.
JaQuel Richmond, Class of 2013, Basketball, Wesleyan Christian (High Point, N.C.)
If you get in trouble I think the coach should be able to make you run. I think that helps us stay in line to be honest.
Triana Tisdale, Class of 2013, Basketball, (Powder Springs, Ga.)
Yeah, I think it should be allowed. It helps us for gametime so everyone is in shape. Depending on what the situation is, I feel if we're not doing what we're supposed to be doing as a team, then we should have some type of discipline. It does work. If someone gets in trouble, the whole team runs. Before I do something, I'll think, "my coach is going to find out about this," and my team is going to have to suffer for what I did.
Mike Grant, Football Coach at Eden Prairie (Minn.)
We've never done it. I don't understand the thinking behind it. I don't think it's the worst thing. Obviously, there's a point where it's terrible punishment. There's a risk in it. I don't know why anybody would do it. If we have somebody miss practice, I tell them it's better you do something else that doesn't take as much a commitment. We tell them the chess club meets once a month.
Gabe Infante, Football Coach at St. Joseph's Prep (Philadelphia)
Nothing that we do is punitive. If you're trying to instill discipline in your athletes, I always believe in talking to them and using it as a teachable moment. I don't believe using any physical form of punishment is effective. I also believe in going to their peers if there's a problem. We address issues like that with our leadership council. To me, making kids runs laps is a bit of a cop out. It's easier to do than articulate what the problem was.
Drew Gordon, Football Coach at La Salle (Philadelphia)
If you run a lot of laps, you become a good lap runner. It doesn't make you a better football player. If we had a problem with a player, I would turn it over to the captains and they might make him stand up and apologize to the team. I look at running laps as old school. Nothing is to be gained from it.