Right Academy. Story 3 – The Vocal Coach.
By Satyajit Sadanandan
A Tale Of Three Players
The concluding piece of a three-part short story. If you missed the beginning, start reading here.
Story 3: Arya’s Choice – The Vocal Coach
Nam FC had a reasonably well-performing team and a Head Coach known for being quite vocal on the field.
The Coach had approached all three parents and promised them that their children would be integral members of the team and get ample playing time. He liked the fact that these players were generally well behaved and said this was important for him. He promised personal attention where needed and seemed confident about their prospects through his coaching.
Kabir had made up his mind and his son joined Meg FC. Sahil’s son was joining Kip FC.
But Arya was impressed with the Nam FC coach and his blunt talk: “Players this young need to be supervised closely. As a coach, I feel it’s my duty to point out their mistakes since they may inculcate the wrong habits on or off the pitch. I am a bit old school when it comes to discipline but it’s all in good spirit and in their best interest.”
Why Arya Choose This Team?
Kabir: “Why do you want to send your son there, Arya?”
Arya: “The Coach. They may not win the League and my son won’t be the Captain, but the team is decent, my son should get enough playing time and I really like the personality and actions of the Coach.”
Sahil: “What’s so special about him?”
Arya: “This coach seems to be very good and I quite like his discipline-oriented approach. We saw a couple of their friendly matches and he is very hands-on. Always coaching his team and wears his passion on his sleeve.”
Sahil: “Most good coaches do, I suppose.”
Arya: “Yes, I think so too. My son doesn’t want to risk sitting on the bench too much and neither does he fancy playing for a weak team. So we have decided to choose this option. The Coach seems to be a tough taskmaster going by his communication and probably that’s what my child needs at this phase of his playing career.”
Kabir: “Fair enough. But be mindful that some ex-players have complained about him and accused him of breaking their confidence through his methods.”
Arya: “Yes, I have heard some of them. But the coach gets good results every year. Also, in the matches that I saw, the players didn’t seem to mind his display of emotions on the ground.”
Sahil: “Ok Arya. Keen to compare notes at the end of the season. Wish your son the best.”
One Year Later
Arya’s son joined Nam FC and the team had a good season, finishing fourth in the league. Arya’s son was one of their core players and played almost all the matches except for an occasional substitution.
When the three friends connected again at the end of the year and after Kabir and Sahil had opened up about their sons’ experience, they were curious to hear Arya’s feedback.
Kabir: “How was the experience with Nam FC for your son, Arya?”
Sahil: “Yes, hope this season turned out better for your son at least?”
Arya: “We didn’t take the correct decision either. My son shouldn’t have joined them.”
Arya: “I was assuming that the personality and behavior of the coach was a strength but in hindsight, he did more harm than good to my son’s game.”
Kabir: “So was him being a strict disciplinarian the problem?”
Arya: “It was not that at all. In fact, any good coach will want his or her players to be disciplined. As a parent, I want that too. And most players expect that in a coach.
But there is a difference between ensuring discipline and hiding one’s own ignorance through pointless screams. The coach was doing the later a lot – this was the main problem.
He was constantly shouting during the matches. Half the time, these were non-instructional yells of frustration like: “What’s the matter with you?” or “Come on!” and at times much stronger phrases.
My son dreads making mistakes now. As do his teammates. They are quite anxious while playing.”
Sahil: “Isn’t shouting during matches common? Coaches used to hurl abuses during our playing days too and I feel it toughens players up. These kids should get a taste of real life, away from the overindulgence at home.”
Arya: “These were exactly my thoughts when he joined. But I was totally wrong in hindsight.
Pointless shouting and constant criticism only serve to undermine player confidence.
It may have happened often in the past and it may be fairly common even today, unfortunately, but that doesn’t make it right or effective. It’s like saying we should go back to allowing corporal punishments in school just because they were common in the past.
Character building can’t happen through a near constant barrage of criticism.
Moreover, just because the kids are pampered at home, doesn’t mean they should get ill-treated at play to make it all even. Extremes are never productive, whichever side they may be.
A good coach shouldn’t need to yell in sarcasm or frustration to get the point across. This is the sign of a bad coach, as I have come to realize belatedly.”
Kabir: “Surely, the coach was also giving instructions – not just screaming in frustration. How else can coaching be done during the game with all the noise around?”
Arya: “Yes, he was shouting instructions the other half of the time but that is also a massive issue. The intent is to make the players do exactly as he directs. But this is not a pre-scripted movie. It is a dynamic sport with unscripted action all the time.
My son seems to have lost his ability to make decisions independently on the ground and constantly looks to the bench for validation and feedback. Where is this going to lead him down the road?
Coaches need to empower young players to take independent decisions – not smother that ability.
Moreover, there’s enough time to explain the tactics before or after a match. One can understand if a Coach is putting in a word or two during the half-time or even during the match. But this is way different – continuous hollering or efforts to control the actions without giving the mind space to players for creativity to foster.
Of course, this is not limited to football – our education system is notorious for stifling creativity among our students through similar methods – and the result is glaringly obvious in our society.”
Kabir: “Don’t top-level coaches like Jurgen Klopp also wear their emotions on their sleeves? How is this any different? Isn’t this also a sign of passion – that the coach is really involved in the game?”
Arya: “There is a huge difference. We tend to mistake such emotions for passion and teaching technique – these are anything but.
Klopp usually expresses emotions when some shot misses the target or when a goal is scored. These are natural reactions and not tools for singling out individual players constantly for mistakes or wrong decisions during the game. The levels of preparation and player maturity are also very different, so one can’t make a direct comparison.
On the other hand, this coach was criticizing my son and his teammates for decisions they were making while playing the matches – like passing or shooting or taking a certain position. None of these players, including my son, want to take unusual chances and risk losing the ball in the process. They are risk averse now and have become quite predictable.
But this is not what we signed up for. Instead of making much progress, he seems to have wasted a crucial year and his confidence has taken a massive hit too.”
Smart Sports Parenting Tactics For Your Child
The best coaches (like the best teachers) are those who prepare their students well for the matches (exams). Not the ones who shout frequently at them in frustration while the matches are going on. Imagine if this happens during your driving test. Will you pass? This sort of behavior is counter-productive in every field – including in soccer.
Good teachers know that making mistakes is never the problem; rather they are the currency to secure progress – as long as one learns from them. They will always encourage independent thinking and sharpen the capabilities to make the right decisions through in-depth analysis before and after the event.
This though requires mastery of the subject. Which, unfortunately, such coaches don’t have. And that is the root of the problem. They hide their own ignorance with these outlandish gestures and shouting bouts – to impress players and parents.
So select the coach carefully and be mindful of such obvious drawbacks. A truly good coach will always encourage independent thinking and analysis. Such a coach never needs to play-to-the-gallery and players will follow them automatically – by the force of their logic – not the depth of their voice.
- Selecting a good coach is essential to figuring out the right team for your child.
- Constant instructions during matches or yelling abuses are signs of a bad coach.
- Good coaches will always empower players to take decisions and learn from mistakes.