The Importance of Words: “Crucial Coaching Conversations”
I call them the three “C”s — Crucial Coaching Conversations — and they are at the very basis of effective sports parenting.
Whether you’re a coach at the amateur level, or a sports parent, you always hear about how important it is to communicate well with your athletes. Problem is, while everybody agrees with that statement, I’m not sure if enough grown-ups understand what “communication” is all about.
I write that, because there are still too many coaches who still insist at yelling and screaming at kids during games…parents who openly shout their disapproval at their son or daughter during a sporting event….coaches who unfortunatley just don’t think twice before opening their mouth.
What grown-ups need to understand is that at the younger levels of sports, kids are trying very hard to gain your approval. They look to you for a knowing smile of approval. But if you are too busy yelling at them for making a mistake, or error, or miscue during the course of a game, or if you feel compelled to give them a “post-game analysis” of what they did wrong in the just-completed game, then the overall effect is that you’re driving them away from their game, not supporting them.
As the adult, it’s incumbent upon to you to think about what you say – both verbally and non-verbally. Kids clearly pick up on these vibes, and if you aren’t careful, the reaction can be devastating. To that end, the next time you find yourself in a situation where kids are looking up to you for guidance as a coach – or even if it’s your kid – keep these tips in mind:
AVOID SARCASTIC REMARKS. Kids under the age of 13 don’t understand sarcastic comments. The so-called humor is lost upon them. As such, just avoid it at all costs.
NEVER BERATE THEM RIGHT AFTER A LOSS. After a tough game, give them some time to recuperate emotionally. Give them a pat on the back, but absolutely do not go into a detailed accounting of what they did wrong. This is not the time for that lecture. Wait until the next practice when they’ve been refreshed before going over mistakes.
BE BRIEF. There’s never any need to talk for more than 3-4 minutes after any tough loss. Besides, kids will just quickly tune you out. Save your breath.
BE SPECIFIC IN YOUR PRAISE. Words like “Good game” or “Nice job” have zero impact. If you really want to have an impact, be specific in your praise. Tell the youngster: “Wow, look at how much progress you’ve made in dribbling the soccer ball with both feet” or “Look at how well you can thrrow strikes…all of your hard work has really paid off.”
That’s what kids want to hear. Not only will it bring a smile to their face, but your words will elevate and encourage them to want to work even harder.
Remember -words are powerful. They can be used for both good and bad, so be careful.