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

It always warms my heart when I hear stories about coaches who totally “lose it” when their athletes mess up. They get up in the athlete’s face, in front of the whole team and yell the following useful questions: “What were you thinking out there?!” “Why did you do that?” “What’s wrong with you?”

So coach, is there something educational that I’m missing in your questions? Are you about to teach your athletes something terribly important? And exactly how would you like your players to answer these kinds of ridiculous questions? “Gee coach, given that the game is so important to us and our season is on the line, I thought I’d take this opportunity to totally embarrass myself, you and the entire squad by striking out” or “Well, to be honest coach, as the team went back on defense, I was thinking about those wonderful green sugar cookies my grandma used to bake for me when I was little so that’s why I missed the ball.”

I know that it may be difficult for some coaches to grasp this concept, but your athletes are not inanimate objects. They are living, breathing, feeling, sensitive organisms who have powerful internal responses to your emotional tirades, responses that usually kill their self-confidence, distract them from the flow of the game and make them fear making additional mistakes. Yelling at your players when they mess up is not exactly an artful form of coaching. In fact, I know of no better way to insure that your athletes play tentatively and fearful than by yelling at them.

Yelling at your athletes will also embarrass and humiliate them, making them fear you more, and worry that “IT” (another outburst) may happen again. If you’re asking these intelligent questions at your players whenever they screw up and yelling at them because you would like to inspire them to take their game to the next level, then you are going about this completely wrong! If your athletes fear you, they will play physically tight. Since being physically and mentally loose is a necessary prerequisite for peak performance, you, as the coach will be actively contributing to their poor play!

I have NEVER met an athlete who wants to deliberately fail or mess up. NEVER! Whenever your players do so, it is not done on purpose! So, why treat them as if that’s exactly what they did?!!! When your athletes displease you, help them, DON’T HUMILIATE THEM! Help them figure out what they did wrong and what they need to do to correct it. Put a lid on your emotions because when they fuel you to scream at your players and ask them “why they did such and such” or “what were they thinking,” this is not good or intelligent coaching!


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