Motivating Players and Yelling

Posted on Friday, June 28th, 2013

Baseball Fun

Yelling at Players, Simply Does Not Work…


Let’s be succinct, EBA does not believe in yelling at players. Not because we aren’t competitive and not because we don’t want to push our players to succeed, but simply because yelling doesn’t work.

I don’t know anyone who enjoys getting yelled at, and after a lifetime spent in competitive sports at literally all levels of the game, I have yet to meet an athlete who responds positively to being screamed at. Athletes are motived by all sorts of things (personal pride, money, fame, the desire to win, etc) but one constant that I’ve seen over the years is that screaming, yelling, insulting, shaming, and embarrassing players simply does not work as a means of motivation.

David Baad, our high school baseball coach at St. Albans School in Washington, D.C., was intense, extremely serious, and had an unbelievable desire to win (he won the league championship in 12 of his 17 years as head coach and retired with a career winning percentage of over .700).  Coach Baad was always demanding and he made very clear his expectation that every member of the team give maximum effort at all times. He was not a yeller. He motivated his players by teaching us to work hard and get the most out of every minute of practice. Many of us would make fun of his daily practice schedules that were literally scheduled to the minute, (3 – 3:16pm, pitcher’s fielding practice. 3:16 – 3:26pm, bunt defenses. 3:26 – 3:29, water break. Etc, etc), but his attention to detail and intensity at practice prepared us to win ballgames. We worked hard because he worked hard. We played games with relaxed confidence because we knew we were prepared. Coach Baad is the best coach I ever had – in any sport, at any level.

College baseball was a totally different story for me. Our Head Coach at Brown, Marek Drabinski, was a yeller. He yelled at his players. He yelled at his assistant coaches. He yelled at umpires. He yelled at opposing coaches and players. He yelled all the time during games. Besides the fact that his on-field antics were embarrassing to himself and to the program, his belief that screaming and yelling was what “intense coaches do to win” actually guaranteed that he got the least out of his players.

Without a doubt, the Brown baseball teams during my 4 years in Providence were, overall, the most talented squads in the Ivy League. We also were a textbook case in underachieving. Most players on my team played scared, for fear of getting screamed at (and I don’t just mean he would talk loudly – he would SCREAM insults at us, call us names, question our manhood, etc). Others with tougher skin like myself, found it difficult to want to win for a coach who treated us so poorly and simply adopted a policy of completely ignoring him. Because most times he opened his mouth during games it was to insult us, the majority of the team (who hadn’t quit already) was forced to either play scared or ignore him – not exactly a recipe for winning. And guess what, we didn’t win. Zero league championships in his first 10 years as head coach at Brown.

The thing that puzzles me to this day about Drabinski’s personality on the field is that it is nothing like his personality off the field. Coach is a really nice guy. He is extremely easy to talk to, has great family, cracks jokes, and is very pleasant to be around – as long as he’s not coaching. I believe it was this side of him that made him a tremendous recruiter and made all of us want to play for him. Unfortunately, his coaching style does not work and as a result, our extremely talented Brown team failed to even win our half of the Ivy League in my 4 years on the team.

The reason I originally intended to post about this topic is that I was forwarded an article about how Coach Drabinski “saw the light” and finally understood that yelling didn’t work. You can read the article here:

I don’t think it’s any surprise that soon after the epiphany you read about in the article (for the record, that 2-1 loss to Harvard is the absolute low-light of my athletic career), Brown won it’s first Ivy League title. I’m excited for the program and thrilled to hear that Coach has a new philosophy on how to motivate his players.

So, as many of you are beginning your coaching experiences remember that yelling doesn’t work. It doesn’t work on high school aged kids, it doesn’t work on college athletes, it doesn’t work on professional athletes, and it definitely doesn’t work on youth athletes.

Play hard and have fun!

Coach Spring

2 Responses to Motivating Players and Yelling

  1. Dave Holt says:

    Coach Spring
    Beware of really loud coaches. They may be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. While doing some youth ball umpiring on the bases I saw daddy coaches get in the face of 9,10, 11 year kids when out of sight from the parents and say things and yell things I couldn’t believe. Parents mistakenly take loud coaches as experts instead of getting their kids as far away as possible from them. No one should sign up for youth baseball and get yelled at all the time. What good is that to anyone?

    Good stuff
    Dave Holt

  2. Jodi Murphy says:

    Will coaches lose their cool in the heat of the moment? Sure. Players will as well. But screaming and yelling and throwing things like a 2 year old having a temper tantrum won’t make for a better game. Knowing when to raise your voice and when not to can make all the difference.

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