I previously asked whether you can coach without saying “Don’t”. Chuck Rey once made us ask whether we can coach without resorting to punishments. He talked in a post (no longer available) about developing a gym culture where there are no sprints, no push-ups, and no burpees for making errors, losing games, etc.

There are a couple of interesting points in this discussion.

Bringing them closer vs. pushing them away

First, from Chuck.

In the post he talked about how the lack of punishment led him to see more positive elements, which he could then point out and support. This, he felt, encouraged more openness and engagement between players and himself. I suspect this ties in with something else as well.

Chances are, if you’re less concerned with punishment you aren’t yelling as much. I’m not suggesting Chuck was a yeller before he took this approach to his coaching. While I’ve met him a couple of times, I’ve never seen him in practice. My point is, though, that yelling is something that tends to distance players from the coach. It’s the opposite of what Chuck talks about.

Now, I will observe that a coach can punish without the yelling and the negative, aggressive type of attitude that sometimes comes with it. If the coach has an otherwise positive, engaged, and supportive relationship with the players, they won’t have an issue with the punishment if they see it as justified.

Please note, however, I’m not suggesting this as a justification to keep punishing.

Pushing back on player requests for punishment

The other interesting thought comes from Alex Porter at the University of Essex in England. In Chuck’s post he talked about the challenge of overcoming player expectations of punishment. Sometimes they even actively push for it. This is funny because, of course, no one actually wants to be punished. They see it as holding them accountable, though.

Anyway, in a conversation I had on this topic with Alex he said the following about an exchange with one of his teams.

They thought we should be doing punishments for certain things. My response was along the lines of we should chase after success instead of running away from the fear of punishments plus punishments wastes time.

Another way of thinking of this is that we want to work on doing things the right way, not on not doing things the wrong way.

Lack of punishment doesn’t mean lack of consequences

I should note just because you don’t make players do sprints for balls dropping, or whatever, it doesn’t mean there aren’t any consequences. Chuck specifically talks about a lack of physical penalties. In some exercises consequences are built in. You let a ball drop in Queen/King of the Court and you’re off. You can also build them into the scoring or counting of drills.

What about non-volleyball stuff?

The entire focus of Chuck’s piece was on what happens in the gym. He didn’t mention what his philosophy is on punishments for off-court issues.

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John Forman
John Forman

John is currently the Talent Strategy Manager (oversees the national teams) and Indoor Performance Director for Volleyball England, as well as Global Director for Volleyball for Nation Academy. His volleyball coaching experience includes all three NCAA divisions, plus Junior College, in the US; university and club teams in the UK; professional coaching in Sweden; and both coaching and club management at the Juniors level. He's also been a visiting coach at national team, professional club, and juniors programs in several countries. Learn more on his bio page.

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