A mom once told me that her daughter performs best when she is yelled at by the coach.
I told her, “Well, I won’t be doing that.”
She went on to give some examples of coaches who yelled at her and how it seemed to work, or something like that. I wasn’t really listening. My mind was occupied imagining what a miserable experience this girl must be having with soccer.
It’s important to separate a few things in this discussion. Except for a very few exceptions, everyone needs to be motivated, and each player is motivated by different things. But one form of motivation is generally successful with all players. Almost everyone will respond to a challenge. So replace yelling with challenging.
The decibel level of the challenge and the tone with which it is delivered, however, needs to be adjusted depending on the player. But simply yelling at a kid does not produce effective results over time.
Evan Ream, in an interesting article on Enterprise, explains FC Barcelona’s approach to coaches yelling at players. It’s based on the understanding that a player immediately knows when he or she made a mistake.
“At FC Barcelona, the coaches are instructed to perform the following action after a player mistake: do nothing. Then, if the mistake occurs again, the coaches … still do nothing. Only after the same mistake is made for the third time do coaches intervene by pulling the player aside and demonstrating the mistake, followed by the perceived correct action. If a mistake is made a fourth time, the coach then designs a training session specifically aimed at correcting the mistake."
What FC Barcelona reminds us is that if you have to yell at your players during games, you haven’t coached them properly. So, it’s your fault.
Screaming coaches also like to use the phrase – “How many times do I have to tell you?” It seems that if you have to constantly tell players the same thing, you are telling them in a way they don’t understand.
At the age and level at which I coach, players on my teams make a lot of what we would all consider mistakes. Eliminating mistake by providing alternatives is important. But when the mistakes are repeated over and over, I ask myself, “What am I doing wrong? What I am doing or not doing to get my point across so they can understand it?” Usually, the words or phrases I use are not sinking in. In those cases, I have to find a way to explain it better.
I have also found that humor is more effective than yelling. After becoming frustrated with one player who kept giving away penalty kicks with overly aggressive tackles in the box, I told her I was either going to use one of those spray bottles people use to train cats and spray her in the face when she committed a foul in the area, or I was going to buy a shock collar that would jolt her out of the habit. By the way, her dad voted for the shock collar. We are still not entirely sure she kicked the habit, but she hasn’t committed a foul in the box in a while.
Screaming at a player who just made a mistake will produce three outcomes. First, it will ensure that the player never, ever again tries anything new, which eliminates any chance of he or she developing the skills needed to solve problems. Secondly, it will discourage risk-taking, and third, it will embarrass the player. If those three things are your goal as a coach, keep on yelling at kids.
The bottom line, as articulated in an article at Coaching Sports Today, writer Mike Davenport says, “Ninety percent (or more) of athletes screamed at are motivated to do one thing and one thing only—make the screaming stop.”