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Go ahead and yell at me coach

Spend time talking to athletes about what they want from their interactions with their coach an you’ll inevitably hear something to the effect of “I want you to yell at me.” I once had a player say, “I don’t care if you scream at me…”

You’ve heard that sort of thing, right? Maybe you thought it yourself in your days as a player.

To use some British phraseology, it’s rubbish!

Don’t believe a word of it. I’m not saying the players aren’t sincere when they say that. The issue is they’re not really being honest with themselves or with you about the yelling. They are, instead, telling you something about what the yelling represents to them.

No player wants to get yelled at. It may be effective at times. Some may have a thick enough skin that they can take it. They don’t actually want their coach yelling at them, though, and they do care if you do it. At its perhaps least upsetting level, it means in the coach’s eyes they’ve messed up. Obviously, no player is looking to do that. Above and beyond that, I’m sure any number of progressively more negative emotional responses come to mind. Think humiliation, anger, depression, etc.

Dig a little deeper with the players and you’ll find that what they are actually saying when they give you permission to yell at them. They really want ongoing feedback. Yelling – as much as it’s uncomfortable being on the receiving end – is at least a form of much desired information about their development and performance.

I have separate comments on the general idea of yelling in the Does yelling at the team accomplish anything positive? post. For this discussion, though, I hope you realize as a coach that even if you feel as though yelling at a player can be useful at times, it is only one potential form of feedback – and generally one with a strong negative focus. As coaches we need to be able to use the broad spectrum of feedback mechanisms and operate in both the positive and negative realms in reasonable measure.

So the next time you have a player tell you it’s OK to yell at them, make a little mental note that you need to be more conscious of providing that player with a lot of feedback, and probably in a variety of ways.

John Forman
About the Author: John Forman
John currently coaches for an NCAA Division II women's team. This follows a stint as head coach for a women's professional team in Sweden. Prior to that he was the head coach for the University of Exeter Volleyball Club BUCS teams (roughly the UK version of the NCAA) while working toward a PhD. He previously coached in Division I of NCAA Women's Volleyball in the US, with additional experience at the Juniors club level, both coaching and managing, among numerous other volleyball adventures. Learn more on his bio page.

3 comments

  1. Alessandro says:

    Kiraly and Speraw talk about this topic in this clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WJQC2ECJLmM

  2. John Forman John Forman says:

    Yeah, what they talk about in those clips pretty much matches my own philosophy.

  3. Alessandro says:

    Carroll says good stuff as well https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sB9n8uBKjzY

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