Coaches are an important influence in a kid's life. Their words always carry more significance to the child hearing them than the to the coach who is saying them. As such, it is easy for coaches to phrase things in ways that are heard as much harsher than was intended. When helping kids develop new skills or when dealing with team selections, coaches should be careful to focus player discussions on tangible behaviors and away from things that have broader personal or family meaning. For example:
Personally Focused and Confusing
Performance Focused and Better
- What's wrong with you today?
- We don't want you on our team.
- Why can't you play as well as Tommy?
- How long have you been playing this sport?
- We are looking for better kids.
- Why can't you play more like your brother?
- Did your dad teach you that?
- Are you this way in school too?
- Would your mom be proud of this behavior?
- Don't let this team down.
- Why can't you be better?
- Your effort is not up to your usual level.
- There were other players who in our judgment made better effort.
- You will need to move more quickly if you are to have an impact during the play.
- Let me show you where you need to be when these events happen.
- We need players with more advanced skills.
- If you are not feeling well, take a break and try again in a few minutes.
- We are counting on a good performance from you today.
When coaches are careful to keep discussions focused on behaviors, they are also keeping their players focused on things they can change. When conversations become more personal, it makes it harder for players to equate a simple change of behavior with improved performance. Giving players a clear set of expectations and measurements is the easiest way to get the most from a team.