South Florida Lacrosse: Positive Coaching Alliance

Thursday, May 29

Postive Coaching Alliance

Connector -- May 29, 2008

In This Issue:
National Conversation on Good Coaching: Case Study # 2 --
 "The Specialist"
Reader Comments on Case Study #1 -- "Old Yeller"
Jim Thompson Responds 
New to the Bookshelf: Tom Farrey's "Game On: The All-American Race to Make Champions of Our Children"
PCA Flies With Newest Corporate Ally: Continental Airlines
Blog: Women Who Win
Coaching Tip: The Route to the Magic Ratio
National Conversation on Good Coaching: Case Study # 2 --
"The Specialist"

Thanks for the resounding response to the Good Coaching Case Studies we launched last month as part of a "National Conversation on Coaching." Later in this issue of Connector, we will summarize your responses to the initial Case Study -- "Old Yeller" -- and highlight the best of the best that made it into the Good Coaching Case Studies blog.

But first, consider our next Coaching Case Study:
The Specialist
As practice is winding down, Coach Hastings motions you over for a private conversation about your child, who shows enough raw athletic ability to excel. Coach tells you your child has great potential but should specialize as soon as possible, eschewing other sports and training year-round, especially if you hope for a college scholarship for your child. Coach Hastings is a technically skilled coach who has had a number of athletes earn college scholarships.

How do you respond?

What considerations inform your decision?

How, if at all, do you discuss this with your child?

Would your response vary depending on the age of your child?

Is there a certain age at which specialization makes the most sense?
You can "converse" about your answers at the Good Coaching Case Studies blog and by printing out this Case Study for discussion at youth sports events and organizational meetings. 

As always, thanks to our co-conveners who distribute Coaching Case Studies through their websites, e-mail newsletters and publications, making this a true National Conversation on Coaching:

American Youth Soccer Organization
Institute for International Sport
Little League International
Michigan State University's Institute for the Study of Youth Sports
Pop Warner Little Scholars, Inc.
USA Volleyball
USA Water Polo
US Lacrosse
Reader Comments on Case Study #1 -- "Old Yeller"
In response to our first Case Study -- "Old Yeller" -- most of you would tolerate yelling when it was necessary for the coach to be heard or when the coach was yelling praise. Some acknowledged it would be OK for a coach to yell a bit to help the team wake up. However, almost all shared the opinion that yelling that humiliates or demeans players is never OK. In addition to the emotional reactions yelling can evince in a youth athlete, especially those younger than 10, many recognized the negative effect of a coach's yelling on the players' on-field performance.
Sample Comments
There is a huge difference between a coach 'yelling' at their team and a coach 'coaching' their team.

I'm a firm believer that players will respect and follow a good leader, not a good yeller.
Posted by: Bequi Livingston
No one of any age wants to be yelled at on a constant basis. I practice the philosophy of raising my voice only in praise. There are many positive ways to get your message across.

This type of coach may be excellent in knowledge of the game, but because he clearly isn't a student in the art of positive coaching, it will all catch up to him some day. He probably has high turnover of players, and eventually good players will quit coming. I've seen it happen a few times.
Posted by: Rick Mills

Yellers have no place coaching kids. I've never heard "positive" or "motivational" yelling. His athletes are probably motivated by fear.

I think a coach can inspire kids to win by being a positive teacher. Yelling is for lazy coaches who don't want to take the time to build the relationships with the players.

I don't think yelling is appropriate at any age, and I have moved my kids away from teams led by yellers. Coaches should think about how they like to be treated in the workplace. How motivated would an adult be if constantly yelled at by a supervisor?
Posted by: Trina  
A winning record alone does not make you a good coach. Coaching is about developing the individuals and giving them the skills and tools to come together as a team.

There are times when a coach may raise his or her voice. This should not be a consistent way of coaching. I would have second thoughts of my child playing for this coach - no matter what their record was. Again, yelling should not be a way of coaching, yet for some older athletes, being more firm will help get the point across.
Posted by: Don Carter To read all the comments in response to "Old Yeller" click here.
Jim Thompson Responds
First, let me thank the many of you who read and thought deeply about "Old Yeller."  Thanks also to those of you who e-mailed it to others or made copies to take to a youth sports game or practice.  And a special thank you to the many of you who entered your thoughts on our blog.  Lots of insight there!
Coaching is much more art than science, and certainly is not a cookbook activity.  There is no single recipe that will work all the time.  Great coaching requires a foundation of values that you are absolutely clear about, together with the presence of mind to respond flexibly to what is happening in the moment.  Athletes are different, game situations are different, etc., so it can be a tough topic to be definitive about.
Nonetheless, let me offer some thoughts on "Old Yeller."
Yelling is a limited tool to be used in a limited fashion.  Kids (people) tend to block out continuous noise, and a coach who yells all the time risks losing his/her players' attention.  Then when something serious comes along that needs to be addressed in dramatic fashion, a coach raising his/her voice seems just like normal, and the import is lost.
Much of the time, yelling is a distraction.  Athletes usually need to focus on what they are doing.  Being yelled at by a coach can distract them from focusing on what they need to do to make a play.
Yelling can make lessons harder to learn. If I am embarrassed to be yelled at, I am less likely to take to heart the information being communicated that might help me improve.  Criticism given in a more respectful way can be more easily taken to heart.
Some kids just can't take yelling.  While the yelling coach may be able to motivate some kids, others will be turned off.  A coach who yells all the time risks not being able to reach a (perhaps) big percentage of kids.  And when athletes have choices, they tend to go towards coaches who build them up rather than yell.  So yelling can be self-defeating in this respect.
I understand that some rare individuals are able to be successful with a yelling style of coaching.  These individuals can somehow convey to their athletes that they care about them so the yelling isn't a problem for them.  But most of the yellers I have seen are not able to do this and their athletes, and their record in terms of the scoreboard, suffer.
Great coaches have a big toolbox of motivational techniques.  They don't rely on a single approach.  As the saying goes, if all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.  If you are accustomed to yelling, you are more likely to yell even when the problem requires a different approach.
In general, great coaches use yelling sparingly.
-- Jim Thompson, PCA Founder 
New to the Bookshelf: Tom Farrey's "Game On: The All-American Race to Make Champions of Our Children"

Tom Farrey, senior writer for ESPN The Magazine and a correspondent for ESPN's E:60, brings his exquisite long-form journalism to its apex in "Game On." Of course, we love the book's passages about PCA, including the epilogue, describing our National Youth Sports Award-winning Double-Goal Coaches as the embodiment of potent ideas that can transform youth sports.

But the greatest value of "Game On" is the depth and intelligence with which Farrey explores several specific examples of win-at-all-cost mania. Rather than simply laying his win-at-all-costs subjects bare for criticism, Farrey helps readers understand the motivations of those who, in the case of Miami Northwestern High School, would cover up a sex crime by one of the school's football players to ensure the football program's "success."
Farrey also examines some of the sociological roots that feed the demons that inhabit some corners of youth and high school sports. All told, "Game On" is an enjoyable and powerful read that can help you understand how youth sports got to be the way it is and how it can get to be the way it should.
PCA Flies with Newest Corporate Ally: Continental Airlines
ContinentalContinental Airlines has become the latest corporation to support the Positive Coaching Alliance movement. Continental will subsidize flights by PCA trainers and staff conducting PCA workshops and business around the country.
"Continental's support will allow us to cover more ground in spreading our message," said PCA Executive Director Jim Thompson. "That is especially important as PCA expands across the U.S."
"At Continental we pride ourselves on being a positive force in the community," said Jim Compton, Continental's executive vice president for marketing. "We are delighted to help bring Positive Coaching to benefit youth athletes and their families in the
communities we serve."
Blog: Women Who Win
Has there ever been a more remarkable month than May for female athletes?
Share your opinion with Youth Sports Nation in reply to our latest blog entry on the ways in which athletes from Candace Parker to Danica Patrick are inspiring youth athletes.
Coaching Tip: Reaching the Magic Ratio
The "Magic Ratio" of five truthful, specific praises for every specific, constructive criticism is not always easy to reach. But here is a way to achieve it legitimately, while helping your players improve. Using baseball for an example, take a simple fungo-fielding drill. Hit ground balls to each of your players in a five-minute drill. That's 10 chances to find something positive to say to each player. Start the drill slowly, hitting balls that are easy to field, gently warming up the players and building their confidence. Since they are fielding cleanly, you can offer specific, truthful praise.
"Great footwork, Tommy, that's it, left-right field, left-right throw,"
"Perfect triangle from feet to glove, Susie."
"Way to keep that glove low, Bill. That's even better than last practice."
As the drill progresses, gradually increase intensity and make the players range. Warmed up and buoyed by confidence from their successful fielding and your praise, they will make the tougher plays, giving you the chance to praise them more and build more confidence, which will lead to more success.


Positive Coaching Alliance

National Conversation on Good Coaching

Case Study #3 | JULY 2008

The Limits of Sportsmanship

Situation Sara Tucholsky’s first college home run was a 3-run shot in the 2nd inning of a scoreless

game to determine whether her Western Oregon (WOU) team or Central Washington

(CWU) would qualify for the NCAA Division 2 softball tournament. Rounding first, Tucholsky’s

knee gave out and she collapsed. Mallory Holtman, CWU’s star 1st-baseman,

reacted to Tucholsky in pain on the ground. She and teammate Liz Wallace carried

Tucholsky, allowing her to score the third run for WOU, which went on to win 4-2.

Query Was Holtman and Wallace’s action an example of outstanding sportsmanship or of

a lack of competitiveness? Why?

If you were the CWU pitcher, how might you feel about your teammates enabling

the opponent to score what might have been the winning run?

If this had happened in a high-stakes professional championship, would it be

appropriate for an opposing player to do what Holtman did? Why or why not?

Would you encourage your child to emulate Mallory Holtman? What might you

say to him or her?

What might a comparable act of sportsmanship be in other sports?

Action Distribute copies to parents at the next youth sports event you attend.

Send it to friends involved in youth sports and ask their opinions.

Share this case and discuss these questions with your child.

Share your opinion at or via

e-mail to PCA will publish all civil responses

on our website.

About the National Conversation

Positive Coaching Alliance and its partners in the National Conversation distribute Case Studies periodically

to stimulate conversation among youth and high school sports parents, coaches and leaders about

the elements of good (and bad) coaching. If you share our goal that youth athletes receive the best coaching

available, help us get these case studies to people you know who are involved with youth sports. Thank you.