Oh, yes you are.
You are screwing up.
None of us coaches like to admit that. It might not happen today. Or tomorrow. But one-of-these days you will screw up (Just call me Mr. Happy).
How do I know? Because we all do it. Every well intentioned, good, respectable coach screws up.
The bad news–when we screw up we can really mess things up.
The good news–there are four common screws up that can easily be avoided. Simple screw ups. Ones we coaches, and our athletes, will be better off if we don’t make.
Here they are.
1. You yell like your shoes are five sizes too small
Coaches should yell. They should scream. And if their point is falling on deaf ears—they should yell LOUDER. Scream HARDER. Spray spit. Flail arms. It works really, really well . . .
. . . to drive an athlete away. To destroy trust. To crush an ego. To develop a rep you probably don’t want.
Athletes don’t respond to LOUD communication like the communicator hopes they will.
Ninety percent (or more) of athletes screamed at are motivated to do one thing and one thing only—make the screaming stop.
Yelling and screaming won’t earn a coach respect. And sprinkling a cuss word might lose said coach a whole lot more than respect. Possibly the coaching gig. Seriously.
There are some darn good coaches currently unemployed because they could not communicate in a positive, constructive manner.
But that won’t be you.
2. Your good-to-bad-critique ratio is out-of-whack
It was going to be a great day.
At my desk I was drawing a picture. My second-grade substitute teacher had just give us an assignment. Crayons. Paper. Everyone started happily drawing.
I thought this was wonderful. Until . . .
The substitute walked up behind me, looking at my work. “This isn’t right,” she said. Then, for what seemed like a life-time, she criticized and corrected my drawing. Not a single positive comment in the whole lot.
I was crushed.
Yet if I was in art school, chasing a masters in fine art degree, I would have expected that criticism. Probably would have demanded it.
Coaches, like my substitute, screw this up all the time. How many positive critiques (You are doing this really well) are you giving your athlete compared to negative critiques (This part here, it needs to be improved)?
Here’s a scale I suggest you might try on for size (This is my theory. May not fit your style or program.)
To see where you are on the ratios have someone record your comments in a practice? Crazy you say! John Wooden did it. Why not you?
3. You care more about winning than you should
We were sooo late. About 10 minutes late. I hated it.
When I go to a movie I love seeing the previews. It gets me in the mood for the movie and I get a flavor of movies to come. And I was going to miss them this night.
I was frustrated as the traffic crept along. I turned to my wife, and groaned, “This is going to suck.”
She smiled. “No worries,” she said. “We’ll just miss the previews. No biggie. Relax.”
I cared. She didn’t.
And that’s where you can screw up your coaching, when your focus on something is intense, say perhaps winning, and is greater than is warranted.
Point blank—winning is fun. But depending on the level you are coaching there is an appropriate importance to put on winning. An eight-year old soccer’s team priority should be athlete/team development and enjoyment. Not winning.
An Olympic effort has one focus—winning.
Are you screwing up by caring more about winning than you should? (Or not caring as much as you should)?
4. You don’t watch the watch
Let me be blunt—coaches stink at telling time.
The boss at my gas-station job expected us to be exactly on time to work, and leave exactly when the shift was over.
During that time we were his people (he used to say) and outside of that time we were someone else’s people. We always pitied the fellow who was 2 minutes late, or tried to leave 1 minute early.
But why do coaches think things are different for them?
Oh yeah, we expect people to be on time, yet I see coaches continually keep their athletes late. Five minutes, ten minutes, 30 minutes late.
We encroach on other people’s time when we do that.
It’s screwing up. Get a watch. Use it. Because other people certainly do.
So? We screw up. It’s part of human nature. What to do:
1) Stop making the easy to stop screw ups (like those above).
2) Avoid at all costs the wicked big screw ups (we’ll talk about those in the future).
3) When you do screw up, relax and learn from it. Apologize. Try a smile. And don’t be too hard on yourself. Cause if you do, that in itself is a screw up.
There are no perfect coaches.
Just coaches who try hard, screw up, and learn from their mistakes.
– Mike Davenport