Recently, I stood next to an opposing coach during a match. I became irritated by the way he was talking to his players. I listened to every comment and attempt at “coaching” his players. My reaction was similar to that of having to listen to 40 minutes of nails on a chalk board.
His tone was wrong, he was speaking to them with a total lack of respect. As if he was above them and looking down on them. Talking to them like they were stupid. He’d say things like, “Oh, that was really smart, wasn’t it?” His tone of voice wasn’t the tone of voice from a man teaching a kid how to succeed on and off the field. It was that of someone overly arrogant, who believed that his players were beneath him. Sarcasm abound, I had to listen to him petty-picking everything his team was doing.
When players were substituted, they hung their heads. Very discouraged by a grown man dissecting their play and insulting them because their execution wasn’t on par with Barcelona FC. In all fairness, his team was not playing bad. They were doing good things on the field, passing the ball well, making great plays off the ball, and communicating. The score board reflected his team’s great play as we were down by several goals throughout the match. This coach had no respect for his players.
R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Aretha Franklin said it best in her iconic melody. The simple word, isn’t just a word, it is an action. RESPECT is what my players receive from me. This doesn’t mean that I won’t correct them or laugh with them then offer correction when they make a silly error. RESPECT is what I give my players and that’s what they give to me.
My tone of voice, my demeanor, and my interactions with my players are done from a state of love and respect with a desire to make them the best player they can possibly be on the field and the best human being off the pitch. I admire my players; their character, their work ethic, their heart, their effort, their love of the game and love of one another. When I coach my players, I coach them from a foundation of respect and admiration.
It’s time, we, as coaches realize that our tone, our body language and the way we speak to our players, will return to us by effort. If I treat my players with disrespect, belittle them, make fun of them, or criticize every decision they make. They will return that treatment to me in training and in games. After all, it’s not the mistakes they make, it’s their ability to adapt and their effort to correct them.
You can expect several things if you don’t respect your players.
• Less than their best effort. Why would they give you more? You treat them with disrespect.
• Their lack of enjoyment of a game they once loved. How can they enjoy a game they love with a grown man criticizing each mistake; rather than helping them learn from them.
• Respect for you and your decision making. Why would I trust a coach that treats me with disrespect?
• Their drive to get better becomes complacent. They’ll settle for how they play now. They’ll no longer be excited to go to training or play games for you.
Coaches should never be arrogant, criticizers, or belittlers. We are motivators, teachers and admirers who want to see our players and our team succeed.
If you do not coach from a foundation of respect and admiration, you should consider not coaching at all.
Derik Griffith is the President and Director of Coaching for Dragons Soccer Club, Inc. a small non-profit youth soccer club in Gardner, Kansas. Derik is a licensed USSF coach with 5 years’ experience.