Say that you’re a coach for a youth baseball team. Your team thus far has been lackluster in terms of performance, but they’re a good group of kids who keep trying and are okay with their results despite losing many games.
You, on the other hand, are not too happy with these continuous results. You become frustrated, pushing your team harder and harder. You snap at your players because they don’t seem to be performing as well as you KNOW they could be. You know they make you look bad because you’re supposed to be responsible for their successes, but instead you’re responsible for their failures. The next game is one that they actually win – you feel vindicated and continue with your coaching methods.
Whether or not you’re truly a coach outside of this hypothetical scenario, the problem here should be obvious – the focus isn’t necessarily on the players themselves, but how the coach is perceived and their own feelings.
Why is this so bad, especially if it gives results? Let’s explore the numerous reasons this kind of coaching strategy should be off the table.
Youth Sports Should be about the Athletes
Coaches often fantasize about being glorified; they want to coach that dream team to the finals and have a taste of the glory involved with being responsible for such a success. However, coaches need to realize that this relationship is incredibly symbiotic. After all, they wouldn’t even be a coach without the athletes on the field.
Youth sports should be about the child athletes trying their best to fight and win, even when they lose. A coach is entitled to their personal feelings and dreams, but these attitudes should stay off the field. Their job is to encourage the athletes, not their own ego.
It Can Become Abusive
In nightmare scenarios, coaches can become physically and verbally abusive towards their players – a child makes a mistake for the umpteenth time and their reaction is to berate them with insults because as a coach they’ve been pushed to their limit. Even if things aren’t this bad, if a coach starts to show signs of frustration and ill will towards athletes then it is possible the behavior can escalate.
Pride Can Hurt a Child’s Own Sense of Self
When a coach focuses on a team’s success in terms of fueling their own prideful ego, they take away the focus from the children. However, the harm can go beyond figurative terms. Coaches who pat themselves on the back and berate players for their failures create an atmosphere of disappointment, ridicule and self-doubt.
Athletes perform better when they’re confident, not when they’re unfocused, terrified or hurt. Lifting up a child athlete will allow them to perform optimally, while the opposite will happen when they are verbally abused or neglected by a coach.
It’s also important to remember that children already beat themselves up enough for their missteps – players feel it when they lose a game, so it’s unnecessary to rub salt into the wound because their own pride has been damaged. Try boosting their spirits with words of encouragement and then they’ll truly thrive.