Ol’ Yeller

20130304-194451.jpgOK – time for the first rant of my blogging career…  Why do we tolerate  / allow coaches (especially, but not exclusively, in school sport) to yell at youth?  Allow me to share the impetuses for my rant.

Exhibit#1: I was watching a junior high basketball game and the coach on the other team was a YELLER.  He YELLED (I am capitalizing to illustrate how frickin’ annoying YELLING is) at a lot of players through-out the game but one particular instance stands out for me.  One of the girls on his team was at least three feet taller than all the rest and as such was gathering in a substantial amount of rebounds.  Apparently, that was not quite good enough for the coach because he proceeded to YELL at her, “JUMP ALREADY! JUST JUMP! JUMP! JUMP! WHY WON’T YOU JUMP! AHH – WHY WON’T SHE JUMP?” The girl was obviously embarrassed, chagrined, uncomfortable, mortified, etc. but to her credit she kept smiling, albeit a little painfully.  Hmm, wonder how long she’ll stay in basketball…

Exhibit #2: A teenager I know tried out for, and made, the football team (for my non-North American friends I mean the kind with helmets) at his high school this year.  Despite an expressed interest and potential burgeoning love for a new sport – not to mention the fact that he is a bit of a beast and would do very well – he decided to not play for the team.  One of the main reasons was a coach who YELLED something very similar to the following, “WHAT THE F@$% WAS THAT? ONE MORE MISTAKE AND YOU ARE OUTA HERE! THERE IS NO ROOM FOR MISTAKES ON MY TEAM. GET IT RIGHT THE FIRST TIME OR RIDE THE BENCH.”  Add this to a few racist slurs and I applaud this teenager’s decision not to play. Keep in mind that these words weren’t even directed at my teenage friend, but at another player on the field.

Let me make a few clarifications to the above exhibits and then close with two main thoughts.  Although I was in attendance at the basketball game, the words above are in no way to be considered a direct quote – only my remembrance of a vivid event.  I do not know if he was a teacher as well as a coach at the school.   The words of the football coach are from the teenager’s perception and, in his mind, accurately portray at least the spirit of the exchanges that went on at practice.  This coach is a teacher at the school.  Ladies, lest you think you are off the hook, it just happens that these two recent exhibits are men – ladies can be YELLERS too!

Thought #1: Does it strike anyone else as odd that while we would we never condone a teacher YELLING at our kids in a classroom, for some reason it becomes accepted in a gym / field setting?  “THAT’S A F@#&ING MULTIPLICATION SIGN NOT DIVISION! DROP AND GIVE ME 20 YOU MISERABLE EXCUSE FOR A MATH STUDENT!”. Weird.  Stupid.  Simply put, yelling (see, I stopped, it is that easy) does not work.  Yelling does not inspire performance.  Yelling does not show that we care. Yelling does not develop skill. Yelling does not build up our youth. Stop. Please.

Thought #2: So far, whenever I have shared the football story, people say, “Oh, but that is just the way football is.”  Really?  Football can operate in no other way than by demeaning and belittling youth with public humiliation and slander (@lifeisathletic – I’d love your thoughts here!)?  What a crock!  I love contact sports but can think of no reason why this mentality has to be the culture of football, rugby, hockey etc.  I know plenty of coaches in these types of sports who are very effective without being an Ol’ Yeller. Please, save the yelling for cheers and praise.

Waiting to be moved by your responses (but leave the megaphone at home…).

4 thoughts on “Ol’ Yeller

  1. Hi Doug,
    Great article. Straight up, yelling sucks. As I say that I have to cringe, as I started my teaching and coaching career as a yeller. It’s what I thought I had to do. I experienced it through multiple levels of football and thought it was the way to go. Plus, as a 22 year old first year teacher I wasn’t equipped to handle the “intricacies” of the middle school psyche. Now, as a much more experienced teacher and coach I look back on that time and kick myself. How obnoxious.

    I still see yellers in my football conference. Most of the time they are snickered at. Our staff is focused and holds kids accountable, but the shaming and intimidation are not there. When anger is expressed it is honest and the kids know it is serious (and it is good for kids to experience honest emotion so they know how to accept it and deal with it….. not fake emotion used to manipulate). Most of my athletes that experience coaches who yell roll their eyes and ask me “what is wrong with that guy?” I answer truthfully, “You just never can tell.”

    Thanks for the insight and getting me to re-think this topic.

    Craig Karnitz
    The American School In Japan

    1. Thanks for sharing Craig! Great to hear from someone in the football world. Glad to see that yellers are not the norm in your area. Honest emotion is ok as long as it does not involve public ridicule and humiliation. And quite honestly, if there is that much anger in coaching youth sports then perhaps we need to examine the purpose and goals of the league.
      Happy Trails!

  2. Your bang on! My thinking is that getting rid of banners/championships would help these types of coaches focus on what is truly important…kids having fun while exercising and becoming physically literate.

    1. Thanks BlueJay! Interesting discussion around the banners / championships for sure. I am ok with competition (appropriate competition) as long as winning is not the FIRST goal (as it often is). For me, development of the whole player – and all players – should always be goal number one!

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