“As a manager, the one signal you need to steadily send to your people is how important they are to you. In fact, nothing is more important to you. Realize your influence, and use it wisely. Be there for your people. Find out who they are. Recognize the effects you have on them and how you can make them grow taller.” – Captain Michael Abrashoff, It’s Your Ship

In this post, I WILL MAKE ABUNDANT USE OF CAPITAL LETTERS! When online and in text messages, writing in capital letters indicates yelling. I choose SCREAM in this post, to illustrate the ineffectiveness of teaching at a high decibel level.

Most coaches and fans, regardless of sport, yell instructions. As if the louder they get, the clearer their instructions become. This is not the case.

Shouting the following merely wastes oxygen:

  • SHOOT
  • DON’T SHOOT
  • NEVER DO THAT AGAIN!
  • WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?

Imagine for a moment that you are at work, and your boss is down the hall. Occasionally, the boss barges out and SCREAMS THAT YOU ARE NOT WORKING THE RIGHT WAY! Every person is now confused and on edge. The boss created stress where none existed and did nothing to lessen your stress or the stress of your coworkers.

Would you enjoy working for such a boss? I expect that you would not. Yet we tolerate that same behavior in practices and games.

There is a massive difference between SHOUTING and raising your voice to command attention. The former is someone who lacks skill in instructing, the latter is someone who knows how to modulate their voice for the greatest effect.

If yelling is ineffective, how should we communicate? Here are a few strategies to save your vocal cords:

  • Speak softly when one-on-one – Screaming negatives does not help when a player is all the way across the field, and it certainly does not help when you are face-to-face. I make sure that I lower my voice whenever I speak to a kid on the sidelines. If they screwed up get down to their eye level and say something like: “You did a great job winning us that faceoff. Just make sure to pass the ball when you get double-teamed. If you do that you will probably get an assist or lead us to a goal.” That is two positives surrounding one negative, otherwise known as a praise sandwich. This technique works wonders for me as a coach and official evaluator.
  • Utilize “call and response” words – This is an excellent tool for getting a group of players focused on you. When coaching, I teach my players that when I shout, “Eyes up!” The players must look at me and respond, “On you!” I borrowed this tool from a former Army Ranger. It is a quick shout that gets attention, an equal shout in response, and then the instructor can explain what comes next in a normal speaking voice.
  • Notice when the official is next to you – When I officiate, I try to speak in measured tones. That typically brings whoever I’m speaking with down to my level of calmness. I am perfectly okay with a coach yelling at me to get my attention, but I cannot stand a person screaming into my ear. It is unpleasant and unnecessary. Yell at the official to get their attention, but please employ your inside voice when we are nearby so we can have a quality conversation.
  • Never yell in anger – When adults yell in anger, kids get scared. When kids get scared, they screw up on the field. When kids screw up the coach yells even more and gets even angrier, which predictably leads to more mistakes. That cycle can be stopped before it ever starts by making a commitment to yourself, and your coaching staff, to never yell in anger. If you feel yourself getting angry, pause for a moment, take a breath and remind yourself that angry communication is poor communication.

Whether you’re a coach, a teammate, an official, or a parent, remember that how you communicate matters more than what you communicate. You can be giving the best advice in the world, or the most logical rules explanation ever, but if you speak in a manner that belittles the person receiving your words, then you will lose them every time you open your mouth