Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Coaching Styles

I was reading about new Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez and it got me thinking about coaching styles. Rodriguez is replacing Lloyd Carr whose long tenure was both successful and disappointing. Carr and Michigan have consistently been one of the best teams in the Big Ten, but they seemed to lose a lot of the big games (such as the recent losing streak to Ohio State and before last year's win vs. Florida sub-par bowl showings). As a result of Carr's mixed success, many Michigan alums and fans were happy to see someone new lead the football team. They got somebody new and Rodriguez promises to shake things up. So what has changed? Well, coaching style for one thing.

Carr's approach to coaching was less fiery and more about creating an atmosphere where players could feel like the coach was their friend. Rodriguez is a fiery guy who will yell and curse at players to try to motivate. Lots of people see this as necessary in football. I don't. I know that football is a tough physical game and I also understand that different people are motivated in different ways, but I don't think that cursing and constantly yelling is necessary. I'm not saying the coach needs to be each player's best friend, but I think there are better ways to lead a team. The goal of any coach is to get the most out of his players. A coach needs to see that his team has good chemistry and focus on team goals as opposed to individual goals. To me, cursing is a sign of poor communication and weakness. Motivation out of fear or anger does not equal the motivation to be a part of something great. If a guy misses a block, what is the best way to handle this situation? Should you pat him on the back and say it's all right? Or should you yell and curse and call him names? Neither. If you pat him on the back, he either won't realize his mistake or he'll believe it was not a big deal. If you yell and curse at the player, what does that accomplish? Well he can take it in one of two ways. Initially the player is going to feel insulted an probably a little bit embarrassed. Then the player will likely get angry. This anger may lead him to "prove to coach" that he can do it right or it may cause him to lose respect for the coach and his anger will be directed in the coaches direction. Either way, it is not the ideal situation. Even if the guy is trying to "prove something to coach," he is doing it for the wrong reasons. He is playing to avoid getting embarrassed again or to avoid the coaches wrath. He is not playing and working hard for the love of the game. His motivation becomes self centered and not team focused.

Bottom line is that constant yelling and cursing is not an ideal or necessary coaching style. There are several better techniques to use that will help to motivate players. Those coaches who curse are not "tough guys" in my book. They are taking the easy way out and they are poor communicators. They are not being good leaders and that's what a coach is supposed to be: a leader.

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