Matt’s Space: What ever happened to a little tough love?


Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown senior tri-captain Lauren Ryan

Over the last two years, the Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown basketball team has made headlines reaching the girls state tournament in back-to-back seasons and finishing Division II state runners-up last season.

But now the team is in the news for a different reason.

Over the last two years, the Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown basketball team has made headlines reaching the girls state tournament in back-to-back seasons and finishing Division II state runners-up last season.

But now the team is in the news for a different reason.

As first reported by the Cleveland Plain Dealer Tuesday, Dec. 16, the parents of senior Lauren Ryan filed a complaint against assistant coach Bryce McKey for an incident that occurred Saturday, Dec. 13 in a 55-43 loss to South Euclid Regina.

Lauren’s father, Michael, a Cleveland Municipal Court judge, filed the complaint with University Heights police, accusing McKey of assault. Ryan made the complaint after failed attempts to resolve the issue with school officials, the Plain Dealer reported.

While the details of the incident are unclear, Ryan and other witnesses told the Plain Dealer McKey grabbed her arm as she came to the bench after being taken out of the game in the second quarter. Ryan said McKey grabbed her arm, yelled at her, then “threw” her arm aside.

Judge Ryan told the Plain Dealer he did not see the incident because his view was obstructed but “he said he wanted to document what he considered inappropriate and possibly illegal behavior.” He also said he does not expect University Heights police to pursue charges.

Where do I begin?

Most would agree – at least those whom have participated in sports at some point in their lives or know of anyone that has – valuable life lessons are learned in between the lines of competition. Be it discipline, responsibility, respect, self confidence, teamwork or selflessness, sports means more than just wins and losses.

Now, those lessons are not always learned or developed like they are in sugary-sweet Disney films. Most times, they come as a result of some type of hardship, loss or discipline.

And the latter seems to be the case with the Hathaway Brown incident.

From the reports, it sounds like Ryan, who has been a starter on and off for four years and is a tri-captain this season, either did or didn’t do something she wasn’t or was supposed to do on the court – to the point the staff made the decision to pull her out of the game. And in a heated match-up between two of the top girls basketball programs in Ohio, tempers flared.

Did McKey go too far by grabbing Ryan? I cannot speak on that because I was not there for the game. But I will speak on what was reported.

Discipline is part of sports. From personal discipline with training in the offseason to being penalized by coaches for missing assignments, practices or not performing well enough in the classroom, without discipline there would not be sports.

Can some discipline go too far? Yes.

Did Hathaway Brown assistant coach McKey go too far? No.

This column would be completely different had a coach caused a player personal injury, but as the Plain Dealer report states, “(Judge Ryan) said the grab did not leave a bruise or other marks and falls well short of the violence he routinely hears about as a judge.”

I know everyone has a different definition of what constitutes appropriate discipline or what going too far is, but I think most would agree that this incident was, well, incidental.

Speaking Of Discipline

Getting back to the lessons learned issue, what type of message or lesson is Judge Ryan sending to his daughter by filing this complaint with the police?

If anything, I would think that being pulled from a game and being reprimanded by a coach would teach a player a more valuable lesson than running to ‘Johnny Law’ for something like this.

I think back to freshman year of college and the Psychology 101 course I was required to take. Negative reinforcement is a conditioning method used all the time in sports to help players learn from their mistakes and to make them better.

It sounds like McKey was utilizing this method, which by the way, Judge Ryan uses on a regular basis when he hands down criminal sentences to discipline those whom have broken the law.

Again, it would be a different story had McKey inflicted personal harm – other than hurt feelings or damaged pride – but Ryan was not physically injured.

Let it be known, I am in no way questioning Judge Ryan’s judgment – his professional career speaks for itself and maybe his actions are just those of any typical parent.

But I cannot speak to that since I do not have any children.

However, I would also like it to be known that I am a former high school coach that has dealt with parents, both in positive and negative situations, and I believe getting law enforcement involved in this particular situation is going too far.

Mars Vs. Venus

I hesitate to bring up the gender issue for fear of opening up Pandora’s Box, but I cannot help but wonder what would have happened had this incident occurred at a coeducational school – or to take it one step further – an all-boys school.

I cannot not speak from a coeducational standpoint but I can speak from the single-sex perspective, having graduated from an all-boys high school. Had this happened at my high school, it wouldn’t even have been an issue. Everything from coaches jerking players facemasks and yelling to get a point across to making kids run sprints in 100-degree weather until they got sick, I witnessed a lot worse than what happened at Hathaway Brown – as I am sure many coeducational athletes have as well.

Now, I perfectly understand the differences between raising, nurturing and even educating males and females (to refer back to my psychology course once again), but given the circumstances of this incident this would not have even be a story at my high school or most others.

The reason why I do not believe this is a gender issue is the mere fact that the filed complaint came from the parents and not the school. Had the Hathaway Brown administration taken action against McKey, then I would have to seriously considered this a gender issue and how the approach to educating and disciplining young men differs from young women.

Backing A Blazer

Hathaway Brown took the court for the first time since the incident occurred Thursday, Dec. 18 at home against Twinsburg. According to the Plain Dealer, neither Ryan, her father nor McKey were in attendance.

Also reported by the Plain Dealer, the Blazers wore new warm-up T-shirts that read, “Coach Bryce. He Coaches. We Play.”

Oh, and the Blazers won, 65-49.

*     *     *    

Matt’s Space is an opinion column by Assistant Editor Matt Natali. The comments and opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the staff or the Bucknuts Media Network.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *