Coaches on the Edge of Their Seats

June 20, 2019 1 min read

After years of pacing the sidelines I and working the players, the fans, and the referees, some high-school basketball coaches are having trouble complying with a new rule that requires them to remain seated during games.

In Indiana, a coach reportedly roped himself to his chair. An Atlanta coach has bolted a seat belt to his chair and buckles up during games. Other coaches assign guards to push them down when they pop up, to avoid a penalty for breaking the rule.

The bench rule, recommended by the National Federation of State High School Associations almost a year ago and subsequently adopted by state high-school athletic associations in every state except Oklahoma and Louisiana, requires coaches to stay in their seats throughout the game unless calling time out, helping an injured player, or applauding an exceptional play. The penalty for a violation is two free throws for the opposing team.

The rules committee of the national federation suggested the bench provision because fights and foul language on the sidelines were becoming too commonplace, according to Richard Schindler, assistant director of the federation.

“We saw a general deterioration of atmosphere along the sidelines, which does not fit well into an extension of the classroom,” he said. Jack Butcher, the boys’ varsity basketball coach at Loogootee High School in southern Indiana, said he has seen a few coaches move their chairs closer to the sidelines so they can be heard by the players. “Sometimes we lean out so far that the chair falls over,” he said. “You may think it’s funny, but it’s embarrassing.”

But some coaches are overdramatizing as a form of protest, Mr. Schindler said. One Indiana coach, for example, was prepared to lead his players from inside a large box with only his head visible, until he agreed with his principal that this was taking the protest a bit too far.

In Indiana, a survey of all 800 high-school basketball coaches, conducted by the Indiana Teachers Association, found 83 percent opposed to the bench rule.

“The coaches may be against it, but the game is not for them; it is for the students,” said Mr. Schindler. “It is not the coaches show.”

A version of this article appeared in the February 26, 1986 edition of Education Week


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