Does Chewing Out Players Really Improve Mental Toughness and Performance?
Kentucky head basketball coach John Calipari is in the news for chewing out one of his freshmen players (all of it caught on video, of course), later following up the incident with apologies posted on both Facebook and Twitter. This incident in and of itself may not be that big of a deal, but it did prompt me to dig into the sport psychology and sport philosophy literature and think about the histrionics and anger some coaches display, and whether it is all needed in order for players to compete harder (Sport Success 360)?
It is fully understood that sports are an emotional experience, but does that make it excusable for coaches to swear, embarrass, humiliate, and berate their players, opponents, and referees? Does mental toughness really improve by being yelled at by a coach? In my opinion, no. There are other life experiences that are also very emotional (like parenting, counseling, and teaching), and I would again say that control can be exercised so that positive results occur. Unfortunately, it has become “normal” to expect coaches to yell and scream, making it difficult to examine the magnitude and effectiveness of this type of approach.
As a counselor, there have been plenty of times where I have sat with a client and wanted to yell and scream out of frustration because the client did not comply with our agreed upon strategies. Similarly, when I teach college classes and see the class perform below average, yelling my head off at them would probably feel good in the moment, but I know it’s not the right thing to do. My point is that all people get frustrated, but the real skill is to take that frustration and find unique, creative ways to transform it into “teachable moments.” Like the old saying goes, you will attract more bees with honey than you will vinegar!