Thursday, April 28, 2005

Positive Coaching Alliance

So Baccarini invited Goodson and me to a coaching workshop on Sunday. The group that conducted the workshop is called the Positive Coaching Alliance. The workshop was more geared towards youth sports in a lot of ways (we spent a lot of time talking about managing your kids parents etc), but there were some things relevant to college as well.

One of the main things PCA emphasizes is “filling emotional tanks” (sigh, I’m starting to sound like I went to Paideia). Their theory is that players perform better when their emotional tanks are full. The way that coaches fill emotional tanks is by striving to maintain a 5:1 ratio of positive comments to negative comments. The positive comments have to be specific and true. In other words we as coaches aren’t just being positive for the sake of being positive. However, when we see our kids do something well we should view that as an opportunity to teach. We can reinforce good habits by telling them “way to hit the swing” when they do it, even though that’s what we’ve told them to do 1000 times. I had talked to Baccarini about this once before, and Nick and I decided to give it a shot at Southerns. We both kept stats about how many positive comments we gave and how many criticisms we gave. I should mention that negative comments aren’t necessarily yelling. A negative criticism would just be telling a player that they should do X when they did Y. Anyway, we struggled to maintain a 3:1 ratio, but I think the kids stayed more upbeat. We’re going to try it again at regionals.

They had some other interesting ideas as well. One was that every coach should have a written coaching philosophy. I plan on writing one in the next few weeks. When/If it happens I’ll post here. In any event, I’m rambling; the point of this was mostly to get your thoughts on player motivation. How do you motivate your players? I don’t think many of us are big yellers, but that doesn’t mean that isn’t a decent tactic. Anyone ever get really pissed at their team and have them respond well?


Tarr said...

The two guys whose opinions I'd really like to hear on this are Adam Simon and Jolian Dahl. Those two guys went from the epitome of a positive coach and (Baccarini) to the epitome of a intense "old-school" coach (Catt Wilson). And obviously, they've had great success in both places.

Personally, I've never been associated with a program where a coach or captain consistently achieved good results by yelling and showing obvious negative intensity. Outside youth basketball, the only time I've been on a team where this mindset was dominant was when I played one fall season with the Indianapolis men's club team. The team was about half college kids and half much older club veterans. The old school vets relied on the negative stuff, on bitching each other out, on arguing with the other team.

To a degree it worked for them, as we were an intense defensive team that took other teams out of their games. But I think all the negative comments sort of melded together in these guys's heads, to the point that they couldn't seperate the meaningless criticisms (show some fucking heart!) from the meaningful criticisms (you're one for six on forehand hucks this game, maybe you ought to holster that one). Well, that, and also everybody hated us, and also playing on that team wasn't fun. They lost about half their college guys (including me) the next year, and the year after that the team basically collapsed. Reap what you sow...

5/1 positive/negative comments is so, so hard to do. I really struggle to keep it at 2/1 or 3/1 and honestly I sometimes have a hard time with that, especially in big games. I've actually brought up the 2/1 goal with the men's team, because the men's team (unlike the women's team) has a problem with bitching each other out when things go sour.

All of that said, there are individual players who I think I can motivate to play better in a negative fashion. One former Purdue player especially stands out in my mind. Telling him he did something correctly just swelled his head (which, believe me, required no additional swelling). Telling him how he screwed up and what to do differently, sometimes harshly, was really exactly what he needed. Still, that approach was borne out of understanding one particular player's mindset; I wouldn't use that approach through a whole team.

Martin said...

Although I hate to disagree with Baccarini, I don't agree with the 5/1 ratio. Don't get me wrong, praise is good (I think that might be a truism . . . if I even knew what that meant), but forcing any ration is bad in my opinon.

As for AJ not knowing a "yeller," he obviously didn't see me coach Tech. I have no problem yelling at players, and was asked by a few Emory women to yell at them the way that I did the Tech men.

Yelling isn't the problem. Unnecessary negativity or positivity is the problem. In Tarr's example ("show some fucking heart") the comment is clearly unnecessary and not productive. Meanwhile, telling someone he is doing a good job when he isn't is not productive either. In my opinion bad players need to hear what they are doing wrong, and you don't need to sugarcoat it. You need to explain why it is wrong to the player so they can understand the rationale.

This is a funny comment to read after listening to a bit on the Daily Show about how the children of America are getting soft and can't handle criticism.

To get back to the point, I agree with Tarr that ever player interaction is individual. I don't agree that there is some golden ratio that you can strive towards to get more output from your players. The way to get more results from your player is to motivate them the way they need to be motivated. Baccarini has a lot of kids who may need that type of motivation, but that may not work for your team.


Anonymous said...

Hey fellas, I came across your blog while doing some research. I mainly play club teams and while I'm not a novice, I'm no ringer either. I just wanted to offer my opinion on what role constructive criticism should have in helping your team.

In my experience, negative comments tend to emanate from the same people, game after game. The negativity vomited by these people tends to be a team poison, nor do their comments help anyone out. These guys tend to lose the respect of their peers quickly.

If you're more equitable in your postive/negative comments, then I think most are more apt to take your advice and comments to heart, while not being bitter about it.

In short - tough but fair. Just my two cents.

Stef said...

I think the trouble is not in the positive/negative ratio but is how you said the negative stuff. Let's me explain on a bad throw, you can say :
1- your throw was bad, you're still a beginner !
2- your throw was bad, maybe it is because you should have done a flick and not a backhand
3- Fuck ! you should have done a flick, I have already say that 50 times !

Negative stuff is not so bad if you keep a positive attitude ... not easy to explain :)

Anonymous said...

Someone mentioned balance-- and that's what it is all about.

I'm a generally very positive and encouraging coach-- i point out success every time that I see it. But at the same time, I point out less successful choices and the like.

I also don't make negative criticisms in a practice before a tourney, nor during a series tournament.

That being said, in the past college season, there were about 4 occassions during practices or early season games that I went completely bat-shit crazy. There has to be a good reason, but it is a tactic that truly gets the point across. When balanced with a positive demenoar, this can be a most effective tactic.

Keith said...

Hah, old Baccarini. Classic.

Well, coming from Paideia, I certainly remember this. Also playing JV and Varsity basketall are Paideia, it was drastically different. In basketball, when we did free throws drills, coach would never comment if you made your first 8/10, but when you missed #9, he was always there to tell you how every time he looked over, you were missing. Now, coach was a decent coach, but it was a stark contrast in negativity to Baccarini's approach.

I think, like others said, its not really about the ratio - its about content. Fluffy and airy, but vapid and empty, compliments really don't add anything; harsh and gratuitous mean-spirited comments don't help anybody either. Baccarini's approach might have been skewed by working with High School kids, especially softies like Paideia kids. You obviously have to handle 14-18 year olds differently than 18 and ups.

In my college career, we were uncoached, but our captains and older players could be fairly mean-spirited, but only out of frustration it would seem. I found this took me out of my game, while the rarer "Nice break, Keith" or "Great D, great D, keep it going" would have the opposite effect, and make me just want to work harder. At Paideia, Baccarini's positivity definitely reflected the spirit he taught to the team, and infused a lot of confidence in players.

In a related note, another big Baccarini technique which I will surely institute in college and any time I have influence in team management is "Positive Chatter". Baccarini wouldn't let us do a drill without including PC, which consisted of uplifting talk from the team, such as "Nice grab", "good throw", or even a generic "Keep it going PHigh" or "Yeah Gruel!". It was effective in keeping spirits high, staving frustration, and teaching players to learn to handle their mistakes - you are a LOT less afraid to turn over a disc if you know you can turn around and find your teammates going "Its all good, get that one back on D and show us that throw".

Wow, that was rambly.

Julia said...

Is it really considered a negative comment when you tell a player, for example, that they should look downfield before turning to the dump?

This is just an example of something that i encountered with the Paideia girls, but I never thought of it as a negative comment. I also try to find the positive more times than not, but I also feel like it is more necessary when girls are involved.

(By the way, the only thing the Paideia girls seemed to get out of the positive coaching alliance was the phrase "Flush it" after someone had made a mistake. haha)

aj said...

I’m not totally sure how the phraseology works. I think the point is this – if you see your player not look downfield and you want to tell her that she should, that’s good. But next time you see her do it right you should make a point of telling her that is exactly what she needs to be doing.