Sports, Coaching, and the Yelling Myth

Aviary Photo_130268653542307384

Sunday, my husband and I went to watch our 10 y/o nephew’s football game. We were really proud of how he put everything he had into every play we watched.

What I wasn’t too proud of was how one of the coaches was constantly yelling and seemingly losing his temper. No, I’ve never been a football player. No, I have no interest in coaching football players.


I was a coach for kids and adults for MANY moons and have a degree in Psychology. It wasn’t until I had a prof spell it out for me that I realized that YELLING gets you no where when coaching kids… especially when you’re trying to teach them how to think.

Last time I checked, an athlete that makes good decisions in the crunch is highly desirable. Yelling doesn’t get you that… at least at that age… and, this is why.

Yelling triggers a physiological response in most children (at least ones that aren’t yelled at constantly) and some adults. Specifically, it can trigger the Sympathetic Nervous System, aka SNS, which is responsible for the fight-or-flight response.

OK, have you ever noticed the “glazed look” some people get when they’re being yelled at? They’re not enraptured with whatever the “yeller” is communicating. In fact, that “glazed look”? It means they’re not home. Sure, they can respond and nod and act how they think the “yeller” wants in order to get them to stop yelling, but, in sports, the athlete’s head needs to be in the game.

By yelling at a child athlete, the SNS is triggered, adrenaline is dumped, blood pressure increases allowing for the immediate demand that running or fighting may require from the body, and the part of the brain that thinks gets less blood.

Less blood = Less oxygen = Less Thinking

Now, I have no issue with adults yelling at other adults in sports. Either party can walk away if it’s an issue.

If you’re teaching or coaching a child, most of the time… the kid is stuck there unless the parent(s) and/or guardian(s) speak(s) up.

Some parents want coaches to yell at their kids. Most of them bought into the myth that yelling increases performance. It just causes a temporary adrenaline surge that will buy temporary performance.

As a coach, I liked long-term results. Some questions I would ask myself while I was coaching:

– “Will this fix the issue permanently?”

– “Will saying “xyz” help this athlete?”

– “Does this athlete understand what it is I’m asking and know how to do it on their own?”

In the end, if a child athlete can’t make the decisions on their own… the coach needs to ask, “What can I do to help them understand?”

If the answer means changing coaching strategy, by all means – CHANGE.

If the coach is incapable of change… CHANGE COACHES.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s