‘I Cannot Ever Take My Foot Off His Neck. I Know That’: Louisville Hoops Coach Kenny Payne On Player Not Wanting To Play Because Of Tights

The Louisville men’s basketball team defeated Bellarmine 73-68 on Wednesday night, but that wasn’t the story from the game. Freshman Ty-Laur Johnson only played three minutes in the first half and head coach Kenny Payne revealed that the young man had doubts about playing because the team didn’t have the type of compression tights he wanted. This of course sparked an “old-school” versus “new school” debate. But what is this really all about?

“Listen at the end of the day, here’s the deal,” Payne said. “This is a new day and age, a new generation of young people. They are learning what it means to be a part of a team. They are learning what it means to be kids of character.”

This Is Not A Generational Thing

First, let’s not pretend that in the history of sports this is the first time an athlete decided they weren’t going to suit up for some lame reason.

There is this belief, primarily among “old school” folks, that this generation of athletes are all about themselves and less about the team. Besides anecdotal evidence, I’m not sure how we would actually prove that.

I’m willing to bet that in the 1960s, ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s there was more than one athlete that exhibited a “me first” attitude in their approach to sport. The difference is I don’t think we heard about it often. Coaches and teams, particularly at the collegiate level, might have preferred to deal with it internally and it never became an issue.

The fact that this is an issue is because Payne decided to go public with it. Right or wrong that was his choice. In today’s 24/7 news and social media cycle, a soundbite like that will go viral in a matter of minutes.

“They’re learning. They’re learning. All of them are learning. We want them to think — like in your mind, you’re looking like I can’t believe he just said that — that’s what it is coaching young people. That’s what it is,” Payne continued.

All young people are learning. Or at least should be. That’s what it means to be young. All young people need to be taught what it means to be a part of a team. What it means to depend on someone who also depends on you. How your role on the team impacts every other member.

This Is What It Means To Be A Coach

Some young people learn that early, others learn it late. To say it’s a “generational” thing is tired and played out. Young people from every previous generation learned at different speeds. Some early others late.

Payne is right in that, that’s what coaching is. It has always been that. It is about connecting and reaching your athletes. It is about breathing spirit into their hearts and minds, as much as it is about the sport or the game. Any good coach knows this.

“There’s a generation of these young kids now that think, you know, I don’t feel good today. I can just shut it down. Well, that affects a whole lot of lives. Ty-laur Johnson is a great kid. He is learning for the first time in his life what it is to be held accountable, to be on time, to be a part of a team and have his responsibility to the team. I’m proud of him for fighting through. But I also know that I cannot ever take my foot off his neck. I know that.”

For every Ty-Laur Johnson there are coaches all across the country who can speak to kids his age that know what it is to be held accountable, to know their responsibility as a member of a team.

Payne seems like he wants what is best for Johnson and seems to want to help him grow and understand what it is to be a good teammate. That’s the job of any coach.

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