You’ve seen the caricature of the out of the control coach who yells and screams at players.
Often vilified, sometimes these types of coaches are also idolized, especially if they win championships. Nobody wants to be that meddling parent who coddles their kid.
But how do you separate the passionate coach from the pariah?
According to noted Sports Psychologist Alan Goldberg, author of the book Head Games, there’s a distinct difference. Goldberg writes extensively about the mental aspects of sports and the impact a coach can have on a child’s emotional and physical well being.
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In his newsletter on his website, Competitive Edge, Goldberg points out behavior typical among bad coaches.
1. They single out kids to criticize
Goldberg cautions to look out for coaches who “tear down self-esteem rather than building it up.” He says calling a child names does little to motivate or help them feel good about themselves.
2. They place winning above everything
Regardless of the pressure a coach is under to win, Goldberg believes their mission should be to “teach young people and help them grow as individuals so that they become better people in the world, both on and off the field.”
3. They ignore safety and health issues
Pressuring athletes to play injured is a form of physical abuse, according to Goldberg. He believes “Playing through pain is not a sign of strength… Instead, it’s completely ignoring your body’s early warning signs that something is very wrong.”
4. The coach allows kids to bad-mouth each other
Good coaches never allow kids to bad mouth or bully each other. “There is nothing safe about being on a team where teammates regularly criticize and yell at each other,” says Goldberg.
5. They play favorites
Good coaches treat athletes fairly, he said. “They don’t operate with two different sets of rules, i.e. one for the “chosen few” and one for the rest of the team. Coaches who play favorites go a long way towards creating performance disrupting dissension on their squads.”
6. They ask kids to deceive their parents
Goldberg thinks that coaches who tell athletes to conceal information from parents are hiding something. He adds, “what they’re trying to hide is their abusive behaviors.”
7. They are disrespectful
Bad coaches disrespect their players. He said good coaches earn respect from their players on a daily basis based on how they conduct themselves. They lead by example.
8. They are manipulative
Coaches who talk behind a player’s back or play one athlete against another are playing “head games,” Goldberg said. Playing one athlete against another and breaking promises can destroy a player’s confidence and “crush their spirit.”
Youthletic guides parents in finding sports programs for their children and has articles about youth sports. It is a product of The E.W. Scripps Company.