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Bully Coaching: Anger Is Not The Problem

Bully Coaching: Anger Is Not The Problem

bullying_coachCoaches usually coach the way they were coached and unfortunately, not enough people understand that fear does not work longitudinally as a motivational strategy (anymore than having athletes run sprints for punishment does – you want to change an athlete’s attitude, take away their opportunity to play).

Having worked with athletes and coaches with he widest array of anger problems for twenty years, I can tell you that this problem is no better now than then. Thankfully, more people are talking about it…but not enough parents and leagues are removing abusive coaches from the opportunity to influence kids.

Anger is not the problem in sports – the problem lies in how much anger is experienced and whether it helps or interferes with performance.

I present on these topics regularly and consult with leagues, schools, coaches, parents and athletes.

MitchAbramsPsyD@gmail.com and http://www.drmitchabrams.com


  1. Anger is just sadness or grief. I have developed the simplest and most effective sports psychology approach available worlwide and all my three books come with a money back guarantee.

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  2. Unfortunately, the problem is prevalent in college athletics, too. The win-at-all-costs attitude trumps any statement a coach makes during the recruiting process. A bully coach will belittle every player on the team except his “favorites.” These are the players that can make errors, strike out, or make any number of bonehead plays yet never come out of the lineup. The ‘other players’ however are the reason they lose. These players are the ones he loves to curse out, loves to belittle, loves to humiliate. Never does he raise his voice to the “favorites”. My 18 year old son, who ate, slept, and loved baseball for his entire life, now can’t stand looking at his coach. He resents him and has lost all respect for him because, as he correctly summed up the situation, his coach is a sad, sad man.
    As a parent, I am completely lost. My son has always been a star player, the guy who hit 3rd or 4th in the lineup, the hardest worker in practice. Now he is just floundering. I am standing back and watching. I am also trying to keep this all in perspective. I am convinced that in the not too distant future, I will get my chance to talk to the coach. Now is not the time. His team has about a month left in the season, and I know how things can change. I am also very emotionally attached to the situation and know I will not say the right thing now. But this isn’t about me.
    My wife is livid. Of course she hurts for our son. I would hate for her to run into the coach in the grocery store.
    Baseball is our thing, my son and I. He calls me after each game. Of course it kills me to talk to him and hear the disappointment in his voice. But I just have to believe he is one base hit away from being in the lineup. I may be delusional. But I can’t let this bully coach win.
    What else do you recommend?

    • Unfortunately Steven, what you described is not uncommon. There are coaches that don’t always have the best approach. Very often, it isn’t even their fault. They coach the way they were coached. They’re under a lot of pressure to win and this sometimes leads to them losing track of what it takes to do so. Of course, coaching up your weakest players are as important as your best players because teams are only as strong as their weakest link. Very often, at the college level, your weakest player is already a very strong athlete that has been playing the game for a long time. The coach is shortsighted if he doesn’t realize the need to support for all of his players.

      And in baseball, where confidence is so critical, and emotional variability has such a powerful impact on performance (there are just so many mental decisions that have to be made in a split second that unbridled emotion gums up the process), that the athlete is at a significant disadvantage if they’re unsure of themselves. It is frustrating and angering for the athlete (in this case your son) and everyone around them.

      As for recommendations, I would focus your son on controlling the controllable. Be in the mental mindset that is required to perform when the time comes – even if that is unpredictable due to the whim of the coach. As parents, of course it hurts to see your kid hurt and I’d feel bad for the coach if he crosses paths with your wife (Mama bears can be pretty fierce). It is worth noting that these are the types of situations where sport psychologists can help athletes build the mental toughness necessary to weather the storm of difficult coaches and put themselves in the best position to thrive when the opportunity presents. At the end of the day, it is about fun. If he is not enjoying the game, he needs to figure out why he continues.

      I hope this helps. If you’d like to discuss more off-list, feel free to reach out to me at MitchAbramsPsyD@gmail.com.

      My best,

  3. My kid is an elite athlete. She was #1 in USA (#2 in Pan American region) in her age group LY and now as a first year in the older age group she is #8 In USA. She was on USA National Team LY and chose not to compete at trials this year. So my kid does not suck. She just won all her events in her sport at a regional qualifying meet for Junior Olympics (4 golds), but her coach is so disgusted with her she wouldn’t even congratulate her. And she also told my daughter during the event in front of everybody on her team that she was pleased with their results, except my daughter’s and that she “lost.” My kid had 3 more events to do after this insult, one event only one in the region moves on. Well it turns out my kid did beat the other kid. But still not good enough. Before this meet, my kid was told during practice by her coach that she is not a good athlete and she should scratch her from the meet in the one high stakes competition where only me gets to go to JO’s. Her coach has never behaved this harshly before. She has always been very very very tough, but this time it shook my kids’s confidence to the core. She cried in the car after practice when she told her she was going to scratch her. My kid never ever ever has cried. I am ready to pull her, but of course my daughter says no. She loves her sport and there is no Other club to go to. I totally get the coach saying she didn’t perform her best and that is why she is not happy, but telling her she lost and the other girl is better than her (true or not, totally out of line I think), and that all the judges like the other girl better, why would my kids coach be so mean to her? There is no communication between parent and coach. And the coach does not like me and doesn’t like most parents. My kid is inspiring to go to the Olympics and this is a small sport so it is a possibility. She is “known” in her sport. I don’t say these things to build my ego, I am just trying to give you background so you understand this is not a recreational thing. 6 days/week 30 hours/wk. And her club where she is at has other elite athletes as well, and some not so elite. I feel like I cannot have her continue because the negative thoughts and pressure are no good for a 12 year old. Please give me something hopeful and helpful in this scenario. I want to help my daughter move past this and have tools ofmthismshoild happen again. As a side note, when her coach is not crazy like this, she is an amazing coach! She knows what she is doing and is one of the best coaches in the sport. Thank you!

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