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Credit: Flickr Photo/Cocoa Dream (CC BY NC ND 2.0)/

Seattle Storm Owner: 'To Be A Champion, You Are Going To Be Miserable'

It doesn't matter if you're an athlete or not, you have to kind of shut up and suck it up sometimes. That’s the tough love of Seattle Storm owner Ginny Gilder.

Tough love in sports has been part of the debate over the recent firing of University of Washington women’s rowing coach Bob Ernst.

Gilder, who rowed for Yale and was a member of the 1980 and ’84 U.S. Olympic rowing teams, told KUOW’s Bill Radke that coaches aren’t necessarily the issue for young athletes.

“I think the real issue is the level to which parents raise their kids and insist on smoothing out every bump in the road,” she said. “If things are tough, they’re not necessarily prepared to deal.”

Matt Lacey, executive director of the Pocock Foundation, has been coaching middle and high school rowers for 20 years and thinks young athletes now experience more complex coaching scenarios, seeing multiple styles before they reach the collegiate level.

“That’s a different athlete, but I don’t believe a more coddled one,” he said. “I don’t believe they are any ‘softer’ because they might have the assumption to stand up instead of simply survive through collegiate athletics.”

Young people do have higher expectations about how they should be treated, Gilder said, and there’s a distinction between being respected and being coddled. Mental anguish is part of athletics, but she doesn’t think it should come from the coach.

“But the truth is, to be a champion at a high level, you are going to be miserable sometimes. There’s no way of avoiding it,” she said.

Produced for the Web by Kara McDermott.