The Best Coaches Are Among The Harshest Coaches

In all but the touchy-feely realms of society, everyone gets a trophy mentality has become a joke. Ironically, this past weekend Ashley’s nephews, now in college, was joking about how different college athletics are compared to the “everyone gets a participation ribbon” high-school sports they played in South California. If you played sports or something highly competitive in school, think back to the coaches and/or teachers that made the biggest impact on you. Did they make you feel good or did they challenge you?

I can’t remember the names of most of my coaches looking back. But, the first two that come to mind though are my debate coach and one from a regional championship baseball team. What did they have in common? They successfully challenged us/me. That coincides with a new study showing that harsh and challenging coaches generally produce the best results.

A Cal Berkeley study of more than 300 speeches across 23 high school and college basketball teams measured halftime speeches across these characteristics. The positive approach, pleased, relaxed, inspired, excited to the more critical approach, disgusted, angry, frustrated and afraid. Which do you think resulted in improved second-half performances? It's wasn’t the warm and fluffy stuff. The more negative and critical speeches consistently corresponded with better outcomes. If the speech turned angry, there was a connection to player performance, otherwise the critical, challenging speeches and coaches netted superior results from their players. 

Think about the top coaches in sports. When was the last time Bill Belichick smiled? But do you want to feel better about losing or do you want to win? There’s a life lesson here. There’s plenty of evidence in sports and aside from it in the real world, that adversity and being challenged to grow and improve leads to better results. The “participation trophy” crowd only set up future generations for less success and now we’re seeing scientific proof of it playing out quite literally. 

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