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Is Yelling a Help or a Hindrance?




Over the past week, I have had sessions with three middle school age athletes that focused a great deal on the communication methods used by their coaches.  One client, an eighth grade soccer player told me that his coach is always yelling at the players on the team whenever they do anything in practice or a game incorrectly. Both he and his parents stated that they don’t agree with this coaching style and are seriously considering trying out for other teams for next year. Another, a seventh grade girl, a softball player, told me that her coach consistently gets right up in a players face when they come to the dugout in between innings and berates them about their mistakes. She stated that the coach rarely gives compliments because she has stated that she expects the players to “do it correctly”. The third client, a 15 year old basketball player, competes on a travelling basketball team that goes to competitions all over the Midwest. His dad asked to meet with me alone to get my opinion about the coach’s tactics. He shared that when they joined the team, the coach only raised his voice at players about behavioral issues. But, as the season has progressed, he has noticed that the coach is constantly yelling at players when they make a turnover, miss a shot or commit a foul. He is now taking players out of the game almost immediately after making a mistake and gets upset at them on the bench.


If you have read previous newsletters, you know that I am a strong believer in educating coaches, parents and athletes about gaining an understanding about why they are on the team, what their goals are and what is expected of each other. I have stated numerous times that I believe a coach should have a preseason meeting where he/she discusses their philosophy and makes sure that they have a clear and well understood communication channel set up between everyone. Is it inappropriate for a coach to yell? It really depends on the situation. Whether you are the athlete, parent or coach, there is a really good chance you will get frustrated at some point in the season. What will you do when that happens? As a coach, I feel you have to really understand this situation and have a game plan for yourself.


There is a big difference between raising your voice at your players so they can hear you across the field and yelling at them about making a mistake. I have had this discussion with numerous coaches over the years. Most have told me that when they get frustrated with a player, they try to back off and think about what they should say to that athlete. Many coaches have told me that if they understand the psyche of that particular athlete, they will know what to say and how to say it to get the athlete to succeed. Sometimes raising their voice can help get the athlete’s attention. If that is accomplished then they communicate to them in a calmer voice and make sure the athlete is looking at them in their eyes while they are speaking. Many coaches have shared with me that screaming and yelling at the athlete is a great way to destroy their confidence and lose them.  I totally agree with this philosophy.


I have always believed that good coaches are good psychologists. Bad coaches need to see a psychologist. As a parent, if you have a coach who is a yeller, you have to decide your strategy. If your child is old enough to be comfortable to speak to the coach about this, I would encourage them to speak with the coach first. Find out how the conversation goes and decide if you need to be involved. If this doesn’t work, or if your child is either too young or too scared to speak with the coach, I think you have a responsibility to discuss this issue with the coach. In most situations, this can resolve the problem. However, if the coach feels that yelling and berating an athlete is the best way to motivate them, it is probably time to look for another team. Whenever I have had this discussion with a coach who yells, I always ask them if their teacher yelled at them in the classroom for giving the wrong answer on a test. That often makes them think a little about their behavior. If they have to start yelling to get their point across, or if they are so frustrated with the team that they feel the need to yell and berate their players, they need to think hard about why they are coaching. Your thoughts.

6 thoughts on "Is Yelling a Help or a Hindrance?"

Natasha DeVita says:

I have been playing basketball for 10+ years and agree that coaches should not yell at their players for mistakes. Letting them know how to IMPROVE upon those mistakes is the best way to handle this situation because by the time the big, important games roll around, the players will know when they make a mistake on their own and will know how to avoid it before it happens! Another thing coaches need to undertand is that players beat themselves up over mistakes more than the coach does so shouldn’t coaches be there to calm them down so that they don’t make another mistake thats even worse? All through high school I was constantly being yelled at by my coach and I would get even more mad at him so then I would play EVEN WORSE! It was distracting and not helpful at all. By my fourth year in high school, I learned to ignore him and had the best season of my career, beating the school record for 3 pointers in a season and even being one of the best 3 point shooters in Palm Beach County and actually made the All Star Game! I was relieved when my basketball career ended. Now playing for fun without coaches is much better.

L.L. Olsen says:

I never succeeded when a teacher or a coach hollered at me. I could not develop my skills and accomplish goals when I was hollered at. My nerves were on edge. It took me a while to figure out that the problem was not me but the coach or teacher. thanks for your time.

Kiki says:

I loved this: “I have always believed that good coaches are good psychologists. Bad coaches need to see a psychologist.” Perfect!!

Don says:

A lot depends on who the athlete is. However young kids as a whole do not look forward to a public berating. I would also question if the coach trying to put on a show. I also feel if the coach is that frustrated with their athletes,it is obviously something they need to work on in practice more. It is comparable to a classroom teacher blaming the students when they fail their class. It is up to we as coaches to figure out why our athletes fail and how we can help them get better at the specific thing we want accomplished. There are many ways to develope toughness without yelling.

It also depends on what the coach is saying when they are yelling. Are they making coaching points or just yelling to be yelling ?

Ralph says:

I have been reading Dr. Jacobs newsletters for years, now and this is the first time I have commented on a subject. I just want to throw my two cents in on this one.
Since the inception of sports and coaching, the majority of coaches have been known know for yelling to make their point. (I know most of mine did, and I was a better athlete because of it!) Now, a coach who is constantly mean spirited, bullying and hateful with his/her remarks is not fit to be a coach. Moreover, physical and mental abuse e.g. the Rutgers coach is absolutely not acceptable. However, the coach who yells to point out mistakes and to hopefully prevent them from being repeated is doing his/her job. (With this caveat, perhaps a coach shouldn’t be yelling at kids under 8 years old) Individual or team mistakes have consequences and lose games. Now there are some who believe that sports should be nothing but fun and enjoyable with no stress mental or physical to their child. Oh, and now there are those who think teams should not even keep score so there are no winners or losers …seriously???? If a coach yells at their little angel, they are immediately upset, take the kids side and say the coach is wrong and a bad person. Then, immediately go to work at soothing the kid’s hurt feelings. I do not subscribe to that belief. If a child cannot stand a little yelling and being called out in front of his/her peers, maybe they should stay out of competitive sports. Let’s say after high school or college, the child now a young adult decides to join the military. Military basic training is not a cakewalk. (I just wonder how my army drill sergeants would have responded had I spoke up and said, my mommy, my daddy and my coaches never yelled at me, so I don’t think you should either 🙂
Kids have to develop a tough skin and be resilient if they are going to participate in competitive sports and be successful in life. It’s about building inner and outer strength and character. Mental toughness is essential in sports, the military, business and life. If a yelling coach is not acceptable to the parent, that’s a real problem.
That said, a coaches yelling should not be intended to damage self-esteem, but rather to correct behavior and develop winning talent and a winning spirit. And, when in spite of a kid’s or team’s best effort they loose a game, they should be conditioned to bounce back and be even more determined to turn it around and charge into the next game with zeal and determination. I would just encourage every parent to do some careful introspection and think long and hard before they start to complain about a coach yelling at their child. Do you want a soft child who can’t take any stress, or do you want a child who is physically and mentally tough who can adapt to the good the bad and the ugly?

Participating in sports is a wonderful way to prepare a child for the challenges of growing up and dealing with a diverse group of people and personalities. It’s a fact; getting yelled at from time to time is a part of life!

Take care,


Hey Doc – having been in baseball my entire life as an athlete and professional player to now a private instructor and scout team coach, I couldn’t agree with you more. It has to do with most coaches who engage in this type of behavior have not played at the highest level and do not have a clue how to manage, motivate the INDVIDUAL PLAYER and nuture their abilities which varies from athlete to athlete… Another huge issue is micro- managing on the field during the game. THE GAME is for the players to out and play and showcase their skills (keeping in mind some are better than others)… Practice is where you work on and fix issue that need to be addressed. Yelling, demeaning behavior NEVER works for anyone at any age or level. It’s a game and games are meant to be FUN!! A good coach is a great psychologist and a great coach accepts that responsibility and sees it through. I have always felt that at any amatuer level of any sport, a ZERO TOLERENCE policy for behavior for coaches, parents and players should be a universal rule. I could go on for days about this subject but the bottom line is no way no how is that kind of behavior acceptable. J7

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