The coach that killed the athlete 

Oh, you thought I was going to call out someone specific, thinking a coach actually took out a weapon and killed an innocent athlete. Not quite. But in essence, it happens all the time. There are hundreds of coaches out there that are destroying the love for a game an athlete once imagined and dreamed of making a career out of.

Here is the thing, most coaches don’t even know they’re doing it. They genuinely believe that they are coaching the right way and being helpful to the athlete making them tougher, mentally stronger and getting them ready for the big leagues. Some athletes can take that but for most, it makes the sport a dreadful and shameful time in their day that they know if the coach didn’t have a good lunch his anger will be let out on him/her. We tend to forget that a high school athlete is going through some of the toughest years of his young adult life. School takes a toll on them, they’re entering the stage of an adult which could be stressful, they're looking to become accepted among certain groups in school. The last thing they need is for their emotional home of playing sports and escaping stress to be broken and destroyed.

I was at a little league baseball game and I was very curious to see how the coaches dealt with these young kids. I sit down to watch and there were two outs for the hitting team bottom of the 6th inning. The kid in left field was in another world playing with the grass not attentive to the game in any way. The batter hits a ground ball straight down left field line and by the time the kid realized the ball had passed him and two runs came in. The coach from the dug out started yelling at this young kid for not paying attention and letting the team score a couple runs. The boy breaks down in tears for disappointing his coach and team as well as being embarrassed in front of everyone. Finally, the team gets the third out and the hitting team goes into the field. As this kid comes back into the dug out the coach continues to show disappointment as he continues to cry. It is now his turn to bat, he comes up to the plate and it was very clear that all he was thinking about was the coach screaming at him making it very hard for him to focus on hitting the ball. He ended up grounding out at first. Watching all this I'm thinking to myself how many other ways were there to convey to the athlete that he needs to pay attention and keep his head up? I thought of more than one, but the idea is that the coach didn’t do any good for the athlete. All he did was make his coaching style seem more stern with no room for an 8 year to make a mistake and along with that he is slowly relaying to this child that sports is not fun and if you make a mistake you will be yelled at, unappreciated or not shown love. 

Many people say “you really think the kid will remember that when he’s older?” He may remember that time or another that's harsher but it will definitely form his view and perspective on sports. He may be an excellent baseball player at skill but he will never pursue a career in it because he has bitter memories and possible trauma from playing competitively.

So for coaches, you either understand this or not, you either agree or not and I hope this will shift perspective and encourage you to think about how you would want your coach to approach you or correct your playing style. Before you want to tell your athlete something take a deep breath and let your anger subside before saying anything. It will really make a difference and your athletes will see it and respect you more for it.

As for athletes, especially the ones that have this problem more often than not, here are three tips for when your coach lets it out on you.

Just let it go. You need to remember that the coach is not as angry at you as he is with the overall performance of the team. The coach is more likely to get mad when the team is losing than when they’re winning. Don’t let it get to you, just let it pass. If you settle on it for too long it will start to eat at your performance which won’t help you in any way. Accept it, take a deep breath or two and become present in the moment. Bring your self back to the now, not in the past or future. 

Reinterpret what the coach is saying. Whatever he says to you retell it back to yourself in a positive more empowering way that will really help to correct your performance. If the coach says “one more missed shot and you’re off”, reinterpret it to “the coach believes in me and in my abilities. I know I’m good enough to turn my performance around so let's start hitting shots. I'm just gonna play the way I know works for me.” Reinterpreting the coach yourself will eliminate negative interpretations that we make up when we don’t know the meaning of things. Immediately shifting to a positive statement will allow you to accept it and move on.

Remember why you started and who you are.

Sometimes we're really deep in a slump and find ourselves mentally and physically stuck. Sometimes because of what the coach or teammates are saying to or about you. In that circumstance go into your mental journal and remember why you love this game so much. What gets you excited about coming out and playing your best? Going deep into your psychology to pull out your greatest desires for playing and performing at your best will reawaken your skills and move you into that place of a pure warrior and back to that athlete you know you are at heart.

Mendy is the Lead Performance coach at Yellow Mentality. You can contact him at Mendy@YellowMentality.com or visit Yellowmentality.com