Spend time talking to athletes about what they want from their interactions with their coach and 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 you to yell at them. 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 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.

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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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