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Speed Bumps or Road Spikes?

Purpose: a "calming" device for traffic Purpose: to stop or impede traffic

One of things we heard loud and clear from our research with players (former and current), administrators, club directors, and parents is the all-too-common stories about "tirespike-kind-of-coaching (our words, not theirs) in youth sports. What is a Tirespike Coach? According to Wikipedia, tirespikes serve a single purpose - to impede or stop traffic. This is the similar way people talked about coaches they have experience all-too-often. Ineffective coaches use their position of power to act like an impeding force to show their players who's the boss and who controls their future. Is that really how we want coaches to serve our youth? What's an alternative?

Consider a Speedbump Coach. Wikipedia offers the following - "speed bumps are calming devices to help slow traffic and to increase the safety in the area." What a great analogy for coaches and it agrees with what we heard from our research. Specifically, here are 3 tips offered to practice more Speedbump Coaching strategies:

  1. Remain Calm During Competitions. The players we interviewed during our research talked about their best coaches as ones who didn't lose their temper during games. This conveyed an important message to the team that you're in control of your emotions and the overall atmosphere was calm. Of course, the opposite had a long-term impact on players. Angry coaches create a negative atmosphere and stresses everyone out. Remember this includes your nonverbal messages as well as your words. Even if you're angry and don't say anything, but your body language projects the anger, you're still communicating the negativity.

  2. Be Approachable. Every person we talked to about great coaches described their coach as approachable - both for sports-related questions/concerns as well as things outside of sports. After hearing this description about great coaches and the consistency in which we heard this theme, we pressed further to see if this happens a lot for today's players. Shockingly, the opposite is true, most players are afraid of to talk to their coaches ifs they think the question they want to raise suggests they don't have "act" together. In fact, the NCAA recently found 90 percent of the student-athletes participating in collegiate sports are afraid to talk to their coaches about weaknesses.

  3. Be demanding - REASONABLY demanding. Speed bumps can be annoying, right? Of course they can be just like coaches can be annoying at times. In our conversations with players their great coaches were demanding and the players expect it from their coaches. The difference between great coaches and bad coaches is the degree of "demanding." Great coaches usually frame their high demands as "continuous improvement, always striving to get better." Others, however, argue perfection is the ultimate goal and anything less is unacceptable. In my opinion, this is an unreachable demand. Show me someone who has reached perfection and I'll be the first in line to interview the person to find out how they achieved it.

So...are you a Speedbump Coach or a Tirespike Coach? How would your players answer that question? One way to find out is to use our TIMEOUT! 360© process.

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