A conversation was once begun by a juniors coach on the following basis.
He considered himself a positive coach, but had another coach run his team through a session. This other coach he described as being tough on the players, though not in a yelling, screaming sort of way. He observed his players responding with more focus and effort to the latter coach and was wondering if he was taking the wrong philosophy.
My immediate response to this situation is that being positive and being tough are not mutually exclusive. Here’s why I say that.
To my mind, being tough is about setting expectations and requiring the players meet them. This is largely related to things like effort, attitude, and focus. That, though, ties in with execution and performance. A tough coach does not allow players to backslide, to do less than what they are capable of doing, or to stop pushing themselves to improve. You can do all of this in a positive fashion, which is where you get the “tough, but fair” type of coaching. It can also be done in a negative fashion, which generally earns the coach much less flattering descriptions.
Our job as coaches is to teach and develop. We are not cheerleaders. Should we cheer our players when they do things the right way? Sure. Should we give them a pat on the back when they need it? Of course. We should not, however, pretend that everything they do is perfect because it’s not – and they know it. Just as constant yelling eventually makes players numb to it, constant praise can have a similar effect. Either that or players think they are better than they really are and are devastated when reality proves otherwise.
My impression of the situation described above is that this coach has been too much of a cheerleader and that the reason the new coach was able to have such a positive impact was that he challenged the players in new ways. That’s something we all need to be doing continuously.
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