In Coaching: Good/Bad/Unfair, Problems in Youth Sports

She had been struggling for months in her performance because she cared too much. She was conscientious, had a great attitude and was an extremely hard worker in practice. She just simply over-pressured herself at competitions to do better, and as a result, always got much too tight to perform her best. At a recent high school competition, after once more putting too much pressure on herself, she had two more disappointing events, and, at the meet’s conclusion, in front of all of her teammates and friends, her coach loudly called her out.

“You are not committed to this team. Your effort was unacceptable today. You have disappointed me and let your teammates and captains down! If you don’t step it up at our next competition, you will never compete for us again! Now, I want you to apologize to your teammates and especially the captains for letting everyone down and doing so badly!”

By this time, the poor freshman was in tears, humiliated beyond belief! The next day, after some of the girl’s teammates had complained to the coach about his harsh treatment of her, he had this to say to the entire team to justify his behavior! “My job is to hold you guys accountable and get on you if you’re not committed or giving enough of an effort. If I didn’t yell at you and call you out for this, I wouldn’t be doing my job!”

SHAMING ATHLETES IS NOT IN THE JOB DESCRIPTION OF A GOOD COACH! Yelling and embarrassing athletes who have bad performances is demotivating, EMOTIONALLY ABUSIVE, and terribly misplaced! Sure, a coach should hold his/her athletes accountable for lackluster effort IN PRACTICE. If an athlete is dogging it, goofing around and not listening, get all over them! That’s your job! However, when an athlete falls apart performance-wise in a game/match/race, it is NOT because of lack of effort. It is NOT because they are uncommitted. Athletes rarely if ever have bad performances in competition on purpose!

Bad performances are most often a result, like in this situation, of an athlete over thinking and putting too much pressure on themselves to do well. If you focus too much on outcome or beating a particular opponent, then you will fall apart under pressure. If you as a coach are going to call an athlete out for something, know your athlete, and then have the decency, sensitivity and intelligence to do this in private! Build them up, while you’re yelling at them! “You know, you’re too good an athlete to be dogging it like that! We need you out there giving a full effort and I know, as your coach, that you can do this!”


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