As soon as you see the title for this article you think of the dog, right? I do. Remember the phrase, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks?” We all do. There’s a misconception in the world of sports regarding coaching which I don’t care for, yelling and screaming. This week we’ll discuss the problem of “Old Yeller” coaches and what can be done to fix them. Old and new dogs can be taught new tricks.


Yelling is not coaching. Far too often we see coaches patrolling the sidelines from the youth levels on up who spend the majority of the game yelling at their players and the officials. Constant yelling screams of insecurity. This is the coaches way of trying to establish or show dominance. Oftentimes a coach will resort to yelling in order to shift blame. The thought process is, “If I’m yelling, I am upset at what the players have done. They’re the ones messing up. I’m trying to teach them what to do right.” It’s basically shifting blame and trying to absolve the coach from any fault. The problem is yelling is not teaching. Yelling puts players in a state of fear. They don’t play free for fear of what coach’s reaction might be if there’s a mistake made. Yelling will also cause players to tune you out. Players can only take so much before the coach’s voice goes in one ear and out the other. Yelling also erodes trust. Players will not trust someone who is constantly down their throats and harping on every single mistake that’s made. Coaches should remember that yelling does not reflect what you know or how good of a coach you are. Two of the best NBA coaches of all time, Phil Jackson and Greg Popovich, rarely yell at, cuss out, or publicly scream at their players. A coach doesn’t have to yell to be effective.

When a coach yells, they are not in the present moment. How can one possibly be ready to handle the next critical moment, possession, or play if they’re always yelling? As mentioned previously yelling is a sign of insecurity, as well as desperation. It’s a sign of being ill-prepared. Great coaches are not constantly yelling because they trust the work that has been put in. Remember that players reflect coaches. If the coach is yelling, the players are likely to reflect it through erratic play.

Young coaches need more mentors. Too many young coaches are going at it alone. There needs to be more young coaches seeking advice, and more experienced coaches offering mentorship. Too often coaches will just do what their coaches did growing up. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it can lead young coaches into painting themselves into a corner. A coach may be resistant to new ideas or philosophies simply because it’s not what they were exposed to as a player. The best coaches know success requires lifelong learning. Young coaches will often make up for a lack of knowledge or experience by yelling. Don’t be that coach. Don’t validate the negative coaching stereotypes that exist. There is a time and a place to raise your voice. The best coaches pick their spots. They know there’s a time and place for yelling, but it’s not all the time. This the art of coaching.

Coach Wooden sums it up perfectly: “Good coaching is about leadership and instilling respect in your players. Dictators lead through fear – good coaches do not.”

It’s imperative that coaches ask themselves these two questions every year. They are simple yet powerful.

1. What would the 16 year-old version of myself think of me today?

2, Would I want to play for me?

What are your thoughts on yelling, screaming, and coaching? What did I leave out? Please continue the discussion.

As always, thanks for reading, have a great week, and be an RGP today!

Coach Elmendorf is available to speak to your team, organization, or group. Message him for details.