To Scold or to Mold…

Former South African Rugby National Coach Peter DeVilliers

Former South African Rugby National Coach Peter DeVilliers

“A coach is merely the extension of a child’s dream.”

Former South African Rugby National Coach Peter DeVilliers leans in, piercing me with his eyes while the echo of his words bounces around in my head.  

A coach is merely the extension of a child’s dream. 

“At the end of your life,” he continues, “You will be called into account for all the kids you were given.” 

Coach DeVilliers raises both hands up high in a victory pose. “These kids are gold! They are precious minerals that can be shaped and formed and it is your duty to play your part!”

———

“Fumble!”

The ball bounces once, twice, then is secured by the same running back who dropped the ball. 
A timeout is called by the other team. 
Assuming he is being pulled, he runs to the sideline to make room for his replacement. 
I stop him. 
“What are you doing?”
“I, I uh…”
“What happened?”
“Sorry, coach. I had my hands wrong.”
“Yes, that is right. You good?”
“Yessir!”
“Then turn around and get back in there— you are getting the ball again.”

In that moment, I could have yelled. I could have embarrassed him because a fumble could be seen as a threat to my ability to teach… or it is part of the game because the game is played by kids who make mistakes (just like adults do!)?

You ever wonder why we as coaches get so angry at the kids when they make a mistake? We get caught up in what those around us will say to us and about us if we do not win the game or win by a certain margin. We sacrifice the positive experience and life lessons sports provides in exchange for “W” in the win column that no one will care about a few months from now. 

I challenge you: the next time you get upset about something during practice or a game, take a pause. Rarely does yelling have a deeper impact than some carefully chosen words spoken in a calm voice. 

And consider keeping them in the game after a mistake. Give them a chance to make up for what they did wrong. Regardless of the score, the small victory of making up for a previous error can teach the lesson of perseverance that will have a much longer effect than what the scoreboard says.  

...and that student whom I left in the game ended up scoring a 39-yard touchdown the very next play.