Dropping The ‘Old School’ Mentality By Michael Austin, Editor-In-Chief

Editor’s Note: This column ran in the November/December 2012 issue of Winning Hoops.

The demise of Billy Gillispie at Texas Tech University comes down to his own doing. The “old school” coach tried to intimidate, and in some alleged cases, verbally abuse players and campers. Gillispie’s methods of motivation are antiquated and frought with deep errors in judgement.

Sure, every coach needs to yell at a player sometimes. That is understood. But, from the reports, Gillispie took it much farther. For some reason, he thought the only way to get the most from his players was to berate them constantly in an attempt to build fear of failure in them. The exact opposite occured. Players revolted, Gillispie stepped away and eventually was fired.

Motivating players doesn’t have to reside in screaming or breaking down athletes. There is a place for positive reinforcement. If a player executes a skill you stress at practice, give him or her a simple slap on the back or even clap your hands in the player’s general direction. It doesn’t have to be much, but it needs to be something. I’ve attended plenty of practices led by coaches with more stature than Gillispie and have watched them scold the bad behavior, offer feedback to get better and reward the good behavior.

People aren’t motivated to do their best by fear. Fear only takes you so far. True motivation in players comes from the need to work for the team, yourself and the greater goal. Fear of an individual doesn’t make that person or coach revered, it makes them loathed. No one wants to be told constantly how they are terrible at something. If the player isn’t contributing or not rising to the level you want, then maybe it’s time to drop him or her from your squad.

As a coach, your top priority is to have players reach their potential as an individual and as a collective unit. At the same time, they need to have some fun along the way. This balance is difficult to achieve but it’s what makes coaching truly a unique profession.

Yell if you must when a player makes a mistake but also extend a hand of congratulations when progress is made. Being the bad guy doesn’t make you a leader … being knowledgable, supportive and inspirational does.


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