Have you ever watched the show “Scare Tactics” before? It’s a show where people prank their friends in scary situations, and it’s quite funny. In a comedic setting “scare tactics” are funny, but not when it comes to athletics.This past Monday I read an article posted by a colleague on Twitter. He did not write the article, the story did not involve his program, he simple shared it on his feed. The article discussed a summer football workout program used in a high school from Oklahoma. The head coach put in a policy that I strongly disagree with, including extra conditioning and possible game suspensions for any player missing a workout. This week we’ll break down this plan, what’s wrong with it, and how it should be properly handled.
In this particular program one day missed would mean an athlete would have to run 100 100-yard sprints (known as “gassers”). A second missed day would double the amount of sprints, while a third missed day would give the athlete a one-game suspension when the season started. Now I am all for teaching and holding student-athletes accountable, but this is not the way to do so. The coach who posted this article, Jeremy Boone (@AthleteByDesign), said these actions could even be considered abusive, and I’d have to agree with him. I have also heard of coaches who give their athletes extra conditioning at practices following a loss. This is also something I very strongly disagree with.
The greatest coach ever, John Wooden, once said: “Discipline of others isn’t punishment. You discipline to help, to improve, to correct, to prevent, not to punish, humiliate, or retaliate.” I believe head coaches have the responsibility of creating cultures within their programs based upon love, respect, and trust. Coaches should reward rather than punish. Let me use our basketball program as an example. Our summer attendance was at its highest point during my tenure this summer. We had consistently strong numbers for our training sessions and I did not hold sprints or conditioning over my players’ heads. We offered incentives but no punishments. We held a raffle in June and July for all players who had perfect attendance. The winner each month won a @viewsport shirt of their choice. Every player who had perfect attendance also gets a “Summer Champion” t-shirt that we designed.
These incentives did help motivate some of our girls to attend more regularly, but more than that I believe that they consistently attended because they saw the value in it. We take the time to teach more than just basketball throughout the year. In summer we have daily thoughts to remember and life lessons learned. During the season we have a character education program to promote positive character. There are other ways to get buy-in from kids than using “scare tactics.”
We openly talk about players’ roles on the team and that summer is a time to earn trust for the upcoming season. Before we broke for the summer we talked about how important it is for the players to continue to work on their games. We talked about how it’s not mandatory for players to work on their game but it certainly helps playing time to increase your skill level. We didn’t threaten with negative consequences, but I believe we’re helping players become internally motivated. I believe that when we as coaches are honest with our players, provide a fun, loving, and encouraging environment players will want to be there. They will also begin to hold themselves accountable without punishment looming over their heads. Great coaches are able to motivate their players through love.
I believe that using conditioning as punishment and motivation is in the stone age of coaching. It’s archaic and honestly hurts more than it helps. I recently attended a CoachingULive clinic in Indianapolis. While there I heard NBA coaching great Brendan Suhr and world-renowned basketball trainer Ganon Baker both talk on how coaches today need to connect with their players. They said we must connect with our kids. We must reach their hearts and minds, that’s the only way to truly reach them, and develop meaningful relationships based upon trust.
Gone are the days where coaches can run kids just to run them. There is nothing I disagree with more than having kids just do cardio, sprints, or conditioning that do nothing to make them a better athlete in their sport (different blog for a different day.) A coach can’t just say, “Run these sprints because I said so.” Kids today want and deserve to know how what they’re doing will make them a better player.
Simply put, scare tactics don’t work. If a coach uses fear to motivate players, they will fail. It is sad to see that this still happens today in coaching. Rather than using scare tactics coaches should focus on creating a culture that kids want to be a part of. Not one that they are forced into by fear of punishment.
Here’s the link to the article referenced in this week’s blog: Article
I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback on this topic!
Thanks for reading, have a great week, and be an RGP today!