On Coaching: Screamers and Stoics

Recently, a video of Tom Izzo, the head coach of Michigan State's men's basketball team, went viral. The video showed Izzo, during Michigan State's game against Bradley University, charging after one of his players, Aaron Henry, getting in his face, pointing a finger into his chest and visibly yelling at Henry until he had to be restrained by his coaching staff. The video went viral and garnered commentary from the thousands who saw the confrontation. Izzo's treatment of Henry garnered a lot of criticism, with multitudes of people wondering how a coach could so brazenly chew out one of his players. The incident even made its way onto Scott Van Pelt's ESPN late night show where the host gave perhaps the best commentary on the entire situation (if you haven't seen Van Pelt's take, it's worth the watch). Former Michigan State players took to Twitter to defend Izzo from the onslaught of tweets and opinions framing his behavior as too harsh and unnecessary. According to his former players, that's just how Izzo coaches and how he gets the most out of all his players. He pushes and tests your limits and you either wither away or respond in kind. It's hard to argue with Izzo's coaching methods. Izzo boasts a 574-225 career record, a National Championship in 2000, eight regular season Big Ten Championships, eight Final Four appearances, eight National Coach of the Year awards and 21 straight NCAA Tournament appearances. Ultimately, this whole incident brings to light just how important the coaching job is and how little casual viewers of the game understand how coaches operate.

Coaches, in any sport, have the unique job of managing and strategically maneuvering a team within a high-stress situations while also establishing personal relationships with their players. Coaches are oftentimes motivators, attempting to extract the best performances from their athletes while continuing to help each player under their tutelage develop as a human being. The way in which coaches go about motivating, understanding and utilizing their players varies tremendously and one size does not necessarily fit all. For organization's sake, I've compiled a list with brief descriptions of three popular coaching types that I've come into contact with. This list is by no means all encompassing but does provide you, the reader, with a general idea of some of the coaching methods present in the world of sports.

The Screamer: these are the coaches who get in your face and yell at you until they're about to pass out. They always seem to be mad about something and the littlest thing always sets them off. I had a coach who screamed at me and sent me off the ice once because I shook my helmet, in an attempt to adjust it, and he thought I was shaking my head so as to say "no" to him. I also had another coach who, after our team gave up a shorthanded goal to end the period (we were still up by two goals, mind you), came into our dressing room and proceeded to smash the room's trashcan across the hall, grabbed the can and began to dump its contents into all of our hockey bags, imploring us to play better in the next period. These coaches simply do not care about their likability with the team and use the fear of being yelled at to motivate their players.

The Player's Coach: Player's coaches rely on personal friendships with their players to maximize their on-ice output. These nice guys are often one of the boys and there's very little difference between how these coaches act when compared to the other players. They're often nicer, understand the plight of players on a more personal level and use their friendships with their players to gain respect and motivate their team to perform at their best.

The Stoic: These are the coaches who show little to no emotion on or off the ice. They tend to relegate their duties and emotive responses to their assistants and utilize their appearance as the strong but quiet type to gain the respect of their players. They motivate by allowing their players to self-govern and simply make known their expectations for the team on any given day. They'll draw up plays and talk to players individually but these coaching types aren't in the business of delivering a rousing speech or trying to force action through undesirable means. They'll usually have a "been there, done that" air to them which does elicit a feeling of calmness and preparedness among their teams.

I have played for many coaches, all of whom have fallen into one or more of these categories. Although different in style, each coach believed that his personal coaching method would draw out the optimal response from his players making the point known that there is simply no one way to coach. Some coaches prefer to keep their players at arms length while some want to be friends first and a boss second. Players respond differently to each situation, too. Many players react positively, like in Izzo's case, when their coach gets fired up and goes after a player who isn't performing to expectation. Some players really enjoy having a coach who has an actual interest in getting to know you while some view that as a sign of weakness. Some players like a coach who gives a fiery speech before every game and tries to motivate the team before every weekend and so on and so forth. Ultimately, while coaching types may vary, it's up to the coach to push the buttons of each player under his command.

A team is only successful when all its players are performing at their maximum potential. Coaches recognize this and set out to prepare their players according to how they believe the team as a whole will respond. As a coach, it is imperative to always act with respect and fairness when dealing with a group of players, but how you push their buttons is entirely subjective. As a player, it is important to be responsive and open with a coach. You alone know what motivates you and if you run into a coach whose coaching style isn't what you prefer, then it becomes important to listen and work as hard as you can.


#DylanKnox #Coaching #PlayerDevelopment

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