At our facility, we work with a ton of teams whether it be soccer, football, baseball, basketball, etc. Each sport, each team, each player has their own culture and ways of communicating.
A sport like baseball does not need to be coached the same way that a sport like football or hockey does. There is nearly zero physical interaction from player to player. In fact, there’s so little physical interaction, that if a batter feels threatened, all he has to do is walk towards a man that is 60 feet away and people get excited before he gets 55 feet away – which most of the time, ends with absolutely nothing happening. And, if there is actual physical interaction, it’s talked about for years.
On the other hand, sports like football & hockey, it’s so commonplace for fights to break out, that if one does, no one really gives a shit.
By that comparison, I think we can all agree that not all sports are created equal, nor should they be treated and coached as such.
Now, I am very laid back for the most part with my coaching style. I hold everyone to a high level of accountability. And for the most part, as long as you get the work done in a timely manner with good form, I could give two shits if you joke or have fun; in fact, I encourage it.
Recently, a local high school football team was training in the facility. An alumni from that high school that played football at Army was there at the same time. This guy is 6’5 290lbs, bearded, bald and solid freakin muscle. The site of this Viking alone would make most high school kids shit down their leg. He was brought up playing a tough game of football and used to get ripped apart daily, hourly… every chance the coach got, actually. And while he was at Army, it didn’t get any better. So the sound of these kids joking around was making his blood boil.
Then, he politely asked me if he could guest coach, to which I said yes. I knew exactly what was going to happen and was really excited for the reaming these kids were about to get (for practically no reason.)
“Did you win the last game of the season?” He screamed, with no reply from the group. “I didn’t think so, so why the hell are you talking?”
The towering Viking then had zero problem going up and down the line ripping each kid a new one (in fact, he… we enjoyed it), while I stood in the background and laughed my ass off.
Side comment: But seriously, even if these kids were the most dedicated athletes ever and were truly pissed off they didn’t win the last game of the year; there is zero chance that they’re not going an entire year without talking because of it. How did that become a line for people to use?
I have worked with these kids for months now and I know exactly what everyone is capable of. I know how they typically perform and I know what they look like when they’re fatigued. What I’ve never seen however, is how they perform under stress. This is why I had no problem letting the Viking do his thing.
1/3 of the group was unresponsive to the yelling
1/3 of the group responded by an increase their performance
1/3 of the group responded by a decrease in their performance
Succinctly put, some did better, some did worse & some stayed the same.
I calmed the group down and got them back to baseline so we could resume training without external stressors and the session went on as planned.
Another example –
I trained a lacrosse team this winter. The best player on the team was a total asshole. Would not conform (keep in mind he pays for training…what a schmuck) and was actually at points a hindrance to his teammates improvement. I tried being mean, nice, funny, sarcastic, I tried pulling him aside, I tried ignoring him and nothing worked. Then I decided to compliment every single player on his team but him. I did it for 5 minutes and he fell into place and started doing what the rest of the team was doing.
What’s my point?
If all you do is rip into a kid that sucks and he doesn’t get any better, you might be a reason he sucks! Same goes to the kid on the team with all the ability and everyone’s told him he’s the man since freshman year and he never got better. Maybe he needs a kick in the ass.
If your goal is to get the best out of a team or player, you cannot treat everyone the same. Some people actually do require more attention, some people prefer to be forgotten about, some people need to get ripped into routinely to stay in line and some people need to be coddled. Your job as a coach and leader is to learn who needs what and when/how to implement it.