There are a lot of paths to athletic success. It's a statement so trite, so often repeated that it seems innocent. It is not. While it is true that there are a lot of paths to athletic success, that does not mean that all of them are just as good. In fact, some of the paths to athletic success are very bad, and we should not be shy about pointing it out.
In the world of sport, especially in America, we are blessed with a lot of freedom for how coaches coach. In a world where teachers feel more and more pressure to "teach to the test", we have in general a very loose structure for how we conduct ourselves. The downside of this is that the worst coaches can take advantage of this loose structure to do as they please, achieve "success" but ultimately harm athletes. But
The problem lies ultimately in how we evaluate coaches. I have written before about how hard it is to properly evaluate coaches. At the time I was concerned with deciding how much influence the coach had on athlete success. The problem, as I saw it, was that sometimes athletes had great success even without good coaching.
That is only scratching the surface. A much larger problem is that athletes can have a lot of success while being coached in a way that actually really hurts them and the people around them in the long run. For every coach that USA Swimming has banned for abuse, there are many more that continue to abuse athletes and will continue to do so because their behavior is justified by "success".
Athletes, coaches and parents must apply a "real life" test to coaching behavior. In every instance, we must ask "would I accept this behavior in all other daily life?".
Would you accept your employer forcing female employees to "weigh in" on a daily basis? Would you accept a math teacher screaming at a student after they performed poorly on a test? How about your yoga teacher giving disproportionate attention to the most flexible student in the class?
There are many "successful" coaches that I simply cannot look up to because of the way they conduct themselves at the poolside. There are no sport specific-ends that justify the means in the sport, and we ought to make the harder choice to evaluate coaches on more than just top performers.