Keeping Your Cool: The Importance of a Coach Counting to 10

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As a coach, in a leadership position, it is imperative that you keep your cool in front of the kids on your team, their families, the opposing team and the officials - as well as other adults in the area. Whether you are a person prone to blowing your lid, or someone that can hold it in, let it go, but every so often just lets it fly, there are solid reasons why you should always count to 10.

Anger and Youth Sports Don’t Mix

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This topic has generated a lot of interest in the media and with sports psychologists. Take for instance, this perspective from Competitive Advantage:

Yelling, anger and sports: Do they really go together? This past Fall there was a short piece in Sports Illustrated about a youth football coach who had gotten so angry at one of his players for throwing an interception that he grabbed the youth and threw him to the ground, breaking both of his arms in the process. The boy was only 10 years old and the incident took place in practice! Why is it that so many youth sport and high school coaches think that yelling, swearing and all manner of anger expression is an effective teaching and motivational technique? Don’t they realize that they are inadvertently turning their athletes off and actually interfering with peak performance? What really happens inside the head of an athlete when he/she has a yeller for a coach?...

Stick 100 athletes in this kind of coaching environment and most will react exactly like this freshman did. They may not necessarily want to quit, but their response to the coach will NOT be to get more motivated and lift the level of their play. A coach who is demeaning hurts far more players than he helps. A coach who uses fbeautyshoppe_Adsear and put-downs as his major teaching tool will only be effective in destroying his athletes’ concentration, killing their confidence and turning his players off.      

Youth Psychology and Yelling

This is indisputable among professionals and study after study confirms it. It is especially true with pre-adolescent children whose brains process simpler, positive, information much better than complex negative information. (Source). So, while culturally it may be somewhat normal to yell as a coach, it is bad practice.

Now, having said that, sometimes people think you are yelling when you are not. If you are raising your voice to be heard across the field, it can come across as yelling to other people, especially since so many coaches yell so much. In those cases you may want to make sure that the people around you realize that you are not criticizing your players. (Source).

Some people’s reaction to this is to wonder if we are making kids too soft; after all, when they were young their coaches more than likely yelled at them. It’s just part of the culture of sports, right? Well, while it has been historically, the culture is shifting and it is rapidly becoming unacceptable to yell at children. As a youth coach, however you feel about this, it is wise to set those feelings aside and focus on how to be the best, most motivating, coach you can without losing your cool.

There are a lot of reasons your voice might rise during practice or a game: anger, frustration, excitement, or background noise. Since positive reinforcement is the name of the game, making sure that you only raise your voice when the situation is positive is one way to make the shift to still being effective, but not negative. And when you find the frustration or anger bubbling up, take some of the following steps that anger management experts recommend.

Tactics to Build a Positive Relationship with Your Team

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WebMd literally suggests counting to 10, however, they define it as taking a step back and then forward while evaluating what it is that really upsets you. Granted, this advice is coming from the perspective of making sure that your intimate relationships are working, however, it is still completely applicable. Breathe, count to 10 while you figure out how to frame what was about to come out of your mouth differently. If there is something really urgent happening, blow your coach’s whistle instead of yelling to get attention.

The better way to coach the kids that are entrusted to your team include:

  • Watch your language. Vulgarity should never be tolerated on the court or field in youth sports.

  • Focus on effort. If you are too fixated on winning you may be getting angry when the team loses. In most youth sports the wins and losses mean less than learning the game and having fun.

  • Don’t repeat history. If you had coaches yell at you that doesn’t mean that it is ok to yell at the children you are coaching.

  • Make sure you don’t let your frustrations from life outside of this coaching responsibility come with you. When you are coaching, let that go and focus on your team. (Source).

Felipe Leon