Tough Love or Verbal Abuse?

Since I started blogging on this site about a year ago, I’ve written extensively about parents who behave badly at tryouts, practices and games. Those yellers, screamers, and tantrum-throwers who think they always know better than the coach—and love to let the coach know. And the one-uppers who never miss an opportunity to tell you how much better their children are than yours. Even the back-stabbers, who act like they’re your friends but then spend hours talking to the coach, trying to get their children more playing time than all the others.

But today, I want to talk about badly behaving coaches. So much attention is now being paid to the ‘helicopter parent problem’ – don’t get me wrong, that’s a good thing – that the problem of out of control, even abusive, coaches is not recognized. And that’s most definitely a bad thing.

I was particularly struck by the story out of Lynn, Massachusetts a few weeks ago. A youth hockey coach yelled at a 9-year-old player and threw a bag of pucks at his twin brother because the boy asked the referee for the puck after he scored his 200th goal. After an investigation by its own board, which I hardly call impartial, the hockey league decided to support the coach and not the family – or the children. What’s more, they voted to kick the boys out of the league! Isn’t youth sports about the ‘youth’? Apparently not.

Stories differ on the prior behavior of the mother of the boys, but to be honest, no matter how difficult or demanding she was or is, there is absolutely nothing that condones yelling and throwing pucks – emotional and physical abuse – by a coach. In any sport. Ever.

The boy is quoted as saying he was “shocked and started to get scared” and “the coaches were mean.” Since when is that what we want kids to feel – at 9 years old, no less – playing a sport? They are supposed to be having fun, not shaking in their skates.

I also read the quote from an assistant coach, justifying his friend’s behavior by saying, “We are hockey coaches. Do we yell? Yeah, we do, but it’s no different than any other sport.” Really? The old, “Everyone else does it, so it’s ok” excuse? I swear I heard my mom whispering in my ear, “So if the other kids jump off the bridge, are you going to jump too?”

Unfortunately, this is not the first situation of abuse by a coach about which I’ve seen or heard. Sadly, it’s also not the first case in which a league has allowed an abusive coach to continue coaching after a complaint. I personally know of a baseball coach who physically slammed a child up against the dugout wall. Another parent reported it. The incident was brushed off by the league because it was the coach’s own child. Don’t get me started.

I also recommended expelling a youth baseball coach in that same league who lost complete control at a game. I was only granted a suspension of three games—and I saw him coaching again the next year, after I had left the board. More kids subjected to his yelling and tantrum-throwing. Sigh.

In addition, I know a soccer coach who yells and screams at his players for the entire game (not just instructions, but derogatory statements of their lack of skill or understanding of the game), taunts the opposing coaches and players (yes, a grown man taunting pre-teen girls), and his league continues to protect him, year in and year out.

What did all these situations have in common? These teams won—and won big. Our country’s youth sports culture covets winning over everything, including the physical and emotional well-being of even the youngest players. The culture is teaching kids to be quiet about abuse or face retribution. Where have we heard that before?

I think it’s time for youth sports leagues to not only give lip service to but rather truly enforce a coach’s code of conduct, and ensure that the children playing the sport – not the adult coaches — are those who are protected. At the end of the day, winning really isn’t the hallmark of a good youth sports team. Happy, smiling kids who can’t wait to go to practice or a game are how you should judge a successful coach—and team.

Has your league taken on the difficult task of expelling a verbally or emotionally abusive coach? Does your league have hard and fast guidelines dictating what kind of coaching language is allowed and what is considered abusive? Has your child been emotionally abused by a coach? Let us know—and what steps you took to remedy the situation.

Emily Cohen is a freelance writer living in Berkeley, California. An avid tennis player and swimmer, Emily has a son who plays high school baseball and a daughter who plays Class I soccer and middle school volleyball. She has been a team manager for a number of her children’s sports teams. You can find Emily’s bi-weekly blog about team management and youth sports parenting here at Follow her on Twitter at @emilygcohen or email her at


April May  

As a long time soccer coach, I agree and disagree with your point of view. I agree that a coach should NEVER get physical with the players – NOR should they yell abusive comments from the side lines. That is just poor coaching. However, I strongly feel that it is appropriate to let kids know they are not performing well. If I was coaching recreation soccer – that’s one thing – I’m excited that the kids are getting out and having fun. I encourage only positive reinforcement. However, for my premiere level teams – I expect more – and when they are not giving it – I let them know, sometimes with positive comments, sometimes by benching them. Dealing with parental politics is part of the coaching requirement – we need to coach our kids as much as their parents. You can drawn the line at the first parents meeting. You can mention that it’s great that they are supporting the team and their kids – and everyone has an opinion – but the only one that matters when it comes to the team is the coach’s and the players. This is America – please vote with your feet. As long as the child is NOT in danger of physical or emotional abuse – let the coach do their job.


Absolutely could not agree more with April May. We have our children in the premier leagues because it is tough, strict and demanding. Agreed that it should never be physical nor abusive, but we absolutley want our childrent to hear the criticisms along with the praise – and in the middle of a game, it is entirely appropriate to make those comments heard loud and clear. It servers the entire team, not just the individual. We had our fill of the touchy-feely coaching style prevalent in the recreation leagues and we, as parents, saw no benefit while our kids didn’t care for it…. no one is pushed, thus there is no satisfaction.

Emily Cohen  

Thank you for your comments, April May and Anon. Much appreciated. To clarify, I was not advocating touchy, feely ‘everyone’s a winner’ coaching (to back that up, see my earlier blog post here on TeamSnap about trophy phenomenon). I totally agree that coaches need to do their job, but that job does NOT include screaming your head off, calling the kids losers, or throwing pucks at a player. There is a line that gets crossed, and, unfortunately, more and more coaches are crossing it.


As a parent of a starting player on a premier team where coaches constantly yelled and berated players both during games and practices (and yes won eveything they could) I can comment from first hand knolwedge. If you cannot get your point across without yelling and screaming you need to find another way to deal with your anger issues, because the kids do stop listening and then believe that it is acceptable behavior.

As for benching kids unless you explain the reasons why at the moment it will not be effective (and screams are not in the state of mind to calmly explain anything)!

I have confronted the coach about their behavior and they are in complete denial, I have complained to leage officials and unless a board member sees the action/behavior it is a he said/she said and nothing will be done. So at the end of the day the only option is to find another team.

I once heard Cal Ripken Jr say if you have to coach on the field during the game you have failed in practice.

Emily Cohen  

Love that Cal Ripken quote! I’ve used it many times! Thanks for remind us all of it.

Longtime Coach  

I agree with April May that it is important to let players know when and where they are falling short, but disagree completely with how he (?) advocates it be done, and to whom. I have coached over 1800 games of soccer, hockey, rugby, football and basketball. I am a mentor coach for two national organizations (soccer and hockey), and have served as convener and competitive development director for both hockey and soccer. I am also a teacher and coach at the high school and university level.

It is completely unnecessary to make your criticisms “loud and clear”, if that means they are heard by others. Coaches who yell at players are often seen by parents (and themselves) as being “more competitive” than coaches who quietly deal with kids on the sidelines or bench. That is not correct. The most effective constructive criticism is delivered eye-to-eye in a normal tone, with direction as to how to improve. For those who think positive instruction and quiet effective communication is “touchy-feely”, they are demonstrating their own “old-school” view of how “serious” coaching should be “done”. I had the opportunity to work with Dean Smith, one of the best college basketball coaches in NCAA history, and was impressed with his calm demeanour and effective coaching. When a player was not running the sets properly, or not playing with the effort required, he would talk to him when he came off the court, not scream at and berate him while he was playing. As a Hall of Fame coach and role model for coaches, he showed it is not only possible but is in fact desirable. This is not a matter of style (as in every coach has his/her own). It is a matter of how people, whether kids or adults, learn best.

If the issue is one of effort, then it certainly is an option to let the player know that they will spend less time on the field/ice and more on the bench unless the effort improves. But again, yelling “loud and clear”…is unnecessary and can do more harm than good. That same coach can make the point just as clearly and much more effectively in a one-on-one conversation.

It is absolutely correct to refer back to Cal Ripken’s comment. We teach coaches that you do your coaching at practice (and again there is no need to yell there….). Even in basketball, the coach should have the athletes prepared to run the offences without micromanaging them. In soccer, the problem is particularly obvious with coaches who constantly yell instructions to players, and as a result, the players become fearful of making a mistake and are less likely to develop on-field decision-making of their own, which is a primary goal in developing soccer players.

Finally, the idea that “rec-level” athletes should be coached differently than competitive athletes is nonsense. At each level, the coach has to identify the entry level skills of the athletes, design a season or year-long program to develop those athletes from that starting point, and teach effectively. Competitive coaches do not “need” to yell or berate players any more than do rec coaches (which is…not at all). Rec players also deserve coaches who will push them appropriately to do their best and excel at their chosen sport. The skill level of the athlete doesn’t change anything. Whether I am teaching U6 kids in a Micro-Academy, or coaching U21 men and women’s teams at university and provincial levels, the athletes deserve the same knowledgeable coaching designed to motivate them to do their absolute best.

Sorry for the length of this, but I wanted to make clear that the CSA, OSA, Hockey Canada, OMHA, and Coaching Association of Canada have moved way past the days of wanting coaches to make things “loud and clear” to players. We want them taught effectively and challenged to do their best. That’s coaching.

Longtime Coach  

Sorry, to make it clear: The “loud and clear” reference was made by anonymous in a post above, not by April May

Coach S.  

Oh, don’t get me started…
As a female coach who has been head coach for boys soccer, (house & select), hockey (Initiation, Rep & House), Baseball (Peewee), a referee and recently told by a girls’ female soccer club that I lacked experience to be head coach for a girls’ select team, I truly have seen it all.
Motivated to become a coach, a good coach, by watching my own father throw garbage cans & sticks at his players when I was a child, I have done my very best to provide the best environment for young athletes to thrive and come to love the game they choose to play.
There have been times I have stood up for players who were attempting to execute a skill or move but failed & got yelled at by a coach which resulted in been yelled at by that very same coach…at least he was no longer yelling at a 12 year old boy new to the game. In other cases I have reported an abusive coach in soccer, his behaviour towards his players, opponents, referees and other teams is HORRID…he was still given a team, and his team was promoted to Gold…FINALLY the league this coming season may actually do something about it…but only if they have enough good & qualified coaches to take teams.
My son no longer plays hockey or baseball because of league policies & coaching issues that he witnessed himself and decided he did not want anything more to do with it. Bottom line if it isn’t fun, it isn’t worth doing. Both my son & my daughter have had & continues to have some truly amazing coaches in all sports and we have a fantastic network of people we have met through the sports. We have seen and experienced a mix of behaviours & situations…and learned from them all.
Parents, there are many positive ways you can approach a coach/team with an issue. Here are a couple of ideas…Wait 24 hours. Do not do it in the heat of the moment when emotions are running high. Avoid doing it at a game or practice when a coach is focused on the team & task at hand. DO NOT do it by EMAIL! Misunderstandings have a way of exploding into a horrid mess. Remember, coaches need some positive feedback too. And find your own game to play…join an adult league of the sport you love…get off the sideline and be a participant…you will soon realize it isn’t so easy to do the things that should be easy.
Coaches & parents, remember it is a GAME…even at the highest levels…it is a sport for all to enjoy and play! Including the officials…you will lose good officials if they are not having fun too.
LET THEM PLAY! I too agree with Cal Ripken Jr.
Ultimately you are responsible for your own actions. Set the bar high and be responsible for your own conduct, both at the game & away. The kids are ALWAYS watching & learning from all the things they hear & see.
This past weekend we had the most amazing experience wheb throwing a U11 girls’ team together to participate in a soccer tournament. They were a truly amazing bunch. We let them play, they played with all their heart, in a division a year older…yes they came home with gold medals, but they came away from the field as amazing friends and it was a fantastic experience for all. As one of those behind the bench, we let them play. Yes we gave information, we made it safe to try new positions, to make mistakes and have a great experience. This tournament was a fantastic example of why we do what we do as parents, players, coaches, referees, volunteers, etc. For the LOVE of the GAME!
Relax…and love the game!

Coach S.  

Thank you Longtime Coach…your points are right on.


I have coached more than 30 youth sports teams and played Div 1 college sports. Kids are no different than adults in that they respond best from positive direction. This doesn’t mean that a coach cannot critique a player, but it is all in “the delivery”. After about my 10th team I realized that I was spending a lot of time telling smarts kids what they were doing well and what they needed to improve on. I decided a better approach was to trun it around and ask them what they were doing well and what we could improve on. I did this at team and individual level. This has many benefits: forces “ownerhsip”, responsibility and self evaluation. Ultimately, they have responsibility for their own performance individually as well as a team. The corallary to this is many overbearing coaches (i.e. “yellers” and abusers) see things as “all about them”. They are there to “make it happen”. Winning is a byproduct of success not the goal unless of course the “team” wants that outcome. But, they decide, not me. Lastly, per previous comment, voting with one’s feet is not always an option nor should it fall to the parent and player to “leave a team or program” because of a incompetant coach. I have spent my share of time removing coaches who did not fully understand their role and who demonstrated they did not possess some of the fundamentals.

Plano Mom  

Very apt article for this time of year when the weather starts getting warm and coaches’ tempers seem to heat up as well. I have two boys six years apart and we’ve experienced the gamut from all out great coaches to all out bullying jerks, but the story that takes the cake is the one in which a coach actually back-handed my barely 7 – year old in chest, screamed him out on the field and belittled him in front of the other team, his team and all the spectators at their flag football game because he ran the wrong route, scrambled to get open and got a touchdown. He even sent out an e-mail after the game telling all the parents it is better to run a route perfectly than to run the wrong one and score a touchdown. I’ve never wanted to physically injure an adult man like I did him, if it wasn’t for my son’s soccer coach, who was assisting and stepped in, I’m not sure what we might have done. This awful excuse for a coach sent out an e-mail later in the season stating he wouldn’t be coaching again – if we hadn’t received that e-mail, I would have made a huge complaint with the league, but in our case, dads and assistant coaches stepped in to explain to him just how off he was in his coaching style of 7 year olds, luckily for everyone, he listened and realized it wasn’t for him. We are also lucky to have a tough little boy who put it behind him and moved on.


Many coach, but not many coach well. And those that aren’t coaching during a game didn’t necessarily cover everything in practice. They just don’t have anything to say during the game. Where are they when the players need to make adjustments, reminders, positive reinforcement, new plays to run…if they’re silent, then they are not doing their job.


The Cal Ripken quote may be appropriate for Baseball but not for a number of other sports. In Baseball the scenarios are limited, the player responsabilities in those scenarios are limited. You could /should be able to address those scenarios in practice. However in many sports that is not the case. The more players on the field the more tactical the game, the less likely that you can address all /most scenarios in practice. I have played multiple sports at a fairly competative level and can attest to this. I now coach at the girls Premiere level in soccer and would say that soccer is a sport that his quote would be hard pressed to have any relevance in. In addition there is a huge difference between coaching during a game and berating players during a game.

I provide my players with explanations about my disatisfaction and my satisfaction as far as thier performance goes. There is real goal setting for the team and the individuals and they are both held accountable and praised as individuals and as a team for their shortcomings and successes in working toward those goals. There is ownership in the outcome as there is in life. I believe that there is nothing better than competative sports (sports where winning is better than losing) to prepare a young person for things to come in adulthood. Sometimes you may have difficult people and difficult circumstances to overcome to achieve success. I prefer to utilize a different quote “whatever doesn’t kill you will make you stronger” (Frederich Nietzsche).

It is pretty easy to scare a 9yr old and make him/her think that you are mean. As a matter of fact you could do it without even trying to. Some folks have thicker skin than others. In in any event there is always a choice. There are diferent levels of play and committment available to everyone in almost all sports. Ultimately the choice belongs to your child and you, knowing full well what is at stake.


Whenever I hear a sentence from a victim that starts with “all I did was…”, I’m immediately skeptical. As it turns out, Ms. Cohen seemed to use the parts of the Lynn, MA that suited her purpose and didn’t relay the whole story. Like the part that says the coach vehemently denies the accusations and that witnesses at the game support the coach’s statements. His explanation was that he was not happy about the boy stopping the game to get the puck. He said that asking for the puck denigrated the emphasis he put on “team play” and “showed up” the other team, who lost that game. He says he never raised his voice during the incident and again, witnesses agree on this. He also said he never threw a bag of pucks at all, let alone at someone. It actually sounds like this is a pretty GOOD coach and yet another story of over-zealous parents. The most telling statement about Ms. Cohen’s example is “stories differ on the prior behavior of the mother”. Actually, except for what her lawyer said about her there are no differing stories at all on the mother.

The only bad part of this story, except for people twisting it for their own use, was that the league president suspended the boys without due process for the leagues by-laws, for which that has since been reversed. Even so, if you read his statement to the family on the situation, it is hardly as nefarious or conspiratorial as Ms. Cohen wants you to believe: “Furthermore, because of Holly’s (the mother) comments and accusations of child abuse … the board feels that in the best interest of all parties involved, that the relationship between the Fogliettas and Lynn Youth Hockey be terminated”

Finally, if Ms. Cohen wants to make a comment like “There is a line that gets crossed, and, unfortunately, more and more coaches are crossing it” she should probably have something that backs up that statement. There are always going to be individual bad coaches out there but to make it seem like there is some trend one way or the other based on nothing but her feelings diminishes all the good coaches out there. I think we can all agree that the VAST majority of youth coaches are dedicated and worthy individuals.

Coach X  

Yelling out onto the field/court “come on you guys lets show more hustle” or “Player Y get back on defense faster” or “get your head in the game” is not abusive. Yelling does not equal bad coaching. Competition and competitive sports are by nature emotional. That is why we all cheer when our team wins instead of smiling and congratulating each other in a normal tone of voice as Longtime Coach would suggest. Being emotional is 1 of many ways to motivate players. To claim the most effective way to deal with everyone is a with a normal tone of voice is to deny everyone’s individuality, coaches and players alike.


I think some of you are missing the point that is made, not if that mom is right or not.
I referee soccer and I can attest that you can spot the coach, that winning is every thing they not only scream all game at their players but I get my share of abuse as well, every call against his team is loudly called out that we never get a break and so on. the best coaches I see on the pitch is alway’s giving the instructions to his players when they are on the bench, and if players are doing something bad they call out to me and ask if they can take that player off the pitch to have a word with them on the bench. cant tell you how some of the competetive team coaches behave and don’t teach the kids the rules of the games, but teaching them sneaky and to me unsportmanship play’s.
thank you for opening this topic.


Longtime Coach “If the issue is one of effort, then it certainly is an option to let the player know that they will spend less time on the field/ice and more on the bench unless the effort improves.” I completely disagree with this statement. Pro-athletes have ‘off’ days and benching them is a solution because they are paid to entertain and win. Children have ‘off’ days too. Whether they are tired because they had another sport practice already that day, are playing the 2nd tournament game within 3 hours or are recovering from an illness, benching a child for what a coach deems ‘lack of effort’ is completely inappropriate. My son (8) has played minor hockey for 4 years. Several kids score hat-tricks on a regular basis (the same ones you rarely see pass), my son has yet to score a goal but has gotten several beautiful assists! My son was recently threatened to be benched for his ‘effort’ (the team was losing at the time). We ended up tying the game and post-game comments were that it was one of the best games of the season. At that point my son went quiet and began to cry and said ‘everyone played good except me, I’m no good and I can’t do anything right’. I found out what had happened to prompt this and had to leave the arena immediately. I chose not to confront the coach in person as I did not want an insincere, forced apology. Instead, I emailed the coach, assistant coach, president and director of the association. The head coach responded by saying the kids know the threats of benching are not followed through with. I have yet to receive a response from any of the others. I am extremely and utterly disappointed that I paid $750/ year to have my son’s self-esteem trashed by someone who is supposed to serve as a positive role model for the players.

April May  

Good opinions all – I don’t agree with some of them – but glad this topic is being discussed.

Longtime Coach is spot on – and his approach really works – one on one coaching with eye contact – for both positive and negative reinforcement – is a winning approach. Asking the player questions instead of giving them answers – also a best practice.

Baseball and soccer – are two really different sports – and Cal’s quote – although appropriate for baseball – is really not appropriate for YOUTH soccer. Coaches never get enough time to work with the younger kids – and game situations are truly the best training scenarios. Also, kids (especially boys) at the youth level have the attention span and memory of a fly. If you can re-enforce your points RIGHT WHEN THE SITUATION OCCURS (or at least close) the point sticks. I’m not suggesting that a coach yell his head of and complain that the player is a loser when they make a mistake – what I am saying is shouting directions and “training in the flow of the game” works wonders at the youth level. That being said, you should never make a game nothing more than “running commentary.” Please notice I said YOUTH and not adult. Different techniques should be used – based on the players/teams skill and maturity.

For passionate coaches (I’m one), I find that sitting down for a few minutes during the flow of the game really helps. It helps the players think for themselves, it gives you time to capture perspective by stepping back and REALLY looking at what is going on, and it gives you time to talk with players on the bench – help them get involved in watching the game, verses daydreaming or chatting it up with their buddies. Asking players to count the number of passes made in successions, or shots on goal, or number of times someone touches the ball – not only is great for you (collecting stats) but also keeps the kids engaged when they are not on the field of play.

One last comment to a few of the parents and parent/coaches that have posted. What is up with starting your kids in sports at the age of 4, 5, and 6?? Kids will learn more playing outside without parental supervision, without our rules, and safety nets at this age. It is on the playground that kids learn inspiration. Organized sports before 7 or 8 is just a bad idea. If you feel strongly that they need to start early – pick up a ball, or a glove, or a stick – and play with your kids in your back yard, or at the Y or at the park.


April May “What is up with starting your kids in sports at the age of 4, 5, and 6? Kids will learn more playing outside without parental supervision, without our rules, and safety nets at this age”

A few point:
1. Organized sports are a great way for young children to get valuable practice with gross motor activities. Some sports will encourage your child to run, others may encourage him to kick a ball or swing a bat. Or the sport may just improve your child’s body awareness and general coordination.

2. I agree that kids need ‘free play’ time in ADDITION to structured, organized sport where they learn teamwork among other non-physical benefits (gross & fine motor skills). They acquire this at recess and lunch.

3. Unfortunately, some parents lack interest in physical activity. Therefore are not the best role models for their children. While I am very active and excelled in athletics, despite having a degree in Kinesiology, I don’t necessarily have the patience or the knowledge to teach my son the rules or technical aspects of kicking a ball. That is where organized sport comes in.

4. I can’t speak to other sports but for the Hockey association my son plays for, if the child does not start from the earliest age, it is likely they will be stuck on the waitlist for several years. If they do end up getting a spot, being behind all the other kids will probably have a negative impact on their self-efficacy.

I dont see any problem with children playing sports at 4, 5 and 6. If they were not physically capable of it based on motor skill development, it would not be offered (ex. fencing is not offered until 8yrs old). As a final point, many leagues have restrictions for how many practices/ games are allowed at each level so as not to cause any repetitive/ overuse injuries. Allowing kids to try different activities throughout the year as opposed to regular Hockey, spring hockey & summer hockey helps them acquire a broad base of skills.

Diablo Parent  

That “Ripken quote” is actually from John Wooden, and probably many others. IMO, it is certainly applicable to all sports. It’s interesting to see the comments on this article and the different standards of behavior for perceived differences in level of play. I disagree that a coach that is silent on the sidelines is not doing his/her job. I’d argue that the vocal ones are doing so more for their benefit (That’s not what I taught them!) than for their kids’. Regardless of the motivation, joy-sticking from the sidelines is redundant at best. Chances are that the game has already “punished” them for their error, and any teaching is best done during breaks in play.

Furthermore, since we are talking about youth and learning the game, shouldn’t we give them the opportunity to figure things out on their own? Instead of shouting instructions from the sidelines, maybe we should be asking them questions during the breaks. “Johnny, you got beat on that play early in the quarter, do you know why?” “Sally, we’re winning the ball in midfield, but we can’t seem to get to the attacking third – do you know why?”

Frustrated Team Mom  

Wow! When I read this I thought I was reading about this year for my daughter’s 10U softball team. They are 7-0 and you would not know it since the only things out of the coach’s mouth are negative after EVERY game and practice. I confronted all the coaches about it and I was made to seem too sensitive since they haven’t had a complaint from any of the girls. Well duh!!! If those girls are taught right, they are to respect their coaches and listen, of course they aren’t going to say anything. I was livid and told my daughter that if it continues, she can speak up for herself without being rude…we’ll see. I will be going to the board and DEMANDING this coach be removed from coaching as well as the board as I know this isn’t the first incident. She has gotten drunk at tournaments and many managers refused to pick up her daughter because they didn’t want to deal with her…you think this is a problem??? Wake up people!!!


Emily–Thank you for your comments; I completely agree with what you have written, along with the follow-on commentary by Longtime Coach, Uchef, and GreenGrassHighTides. I participated in competitive sports in high school and college, have a son currently competing in intercollegiate athletics, as well as two daughters playing competitive club soccer, and I serve as a USSF referee–based on these experiences, I fully believe that coaches should NOT be yelling to players on the field. They should be doing their coaching in practice and when players come to the bench during matches. When searching out soccer clubs for our daughters, we made it a priority to ensure that the coaches were respectful, calm, and professional in their behavior when correcting the performance of their athletes.


This is a good write up. There is not just one way but I know derogatory name calling is not effective and it is just wrong especially at the youth level. Having played in two different continents and coming from a country where soccer is a religion. Having achieved multiple national awards and coaching several successful teams. I can say coaches’ behaviors are influence by multiple experiences throughout their life time. What the coach has accomplished and how that coach earned his credentials also matters. I have been playing soccer ever since I could walk and have been privilege to be coach by some of the best coaches: some were yellers and some had cool demeanors but both were effective with me.

As a coach, I factor in these various conditions
1. What is the ability of the players and what is their competitive level.
2. Age is also a big factor
3. Yelling sometimes can be effective but what is being yelled matter.
4. Temperament of the players.
5. Success has to be defined for the team and this is different for different coaches.
6. Always balance the positive and negative.
7. Set a reasonable standard for your team so you don’t get frustrated and go overboard when these expectations are not meet.
8. In my college playing days, I had a coach who will always threaten to kill me and lose his job because I will try new things on the field. Personally it didn’t bother me but I know this type of comment will devastate others. He knew that will motivate me to elevate my performance.
9. What I try to do is to find what will elevate the individual player to their potential and for some occasional yelling is necessary and for some I have to wait and pull them aside and have a one of one conversation. But never naming calling.
10. The coach can influence their players greatly on how they conducted themselves by being a positive example. But If I have to yell across the field a few times to get the point across then it will be an option.
11. I prepare my team to be at foremost mentally tough, because from experience I know that some of the nastiest comments can occur during the game from either opposing teams or parents. They have to be able to deal with it without losing concentration and temper. Leaders are mentally though people.
12. Now it is very possible for a coach to lose their temper occasionally because that’s human and I have never met any human being who had not made a comment out of frustration or anger and regretted it.

13. So there is no one true way but multiple approaches and every team is different. But physical and emotional abuse is a NO NO!


My daughter plays for a coach that yells, screams, and pounds his fists on the ground and often punches the wall. She recently told me that he swears all the time at at their last tournament he told them to get into the f-ing huddle, pounded his fist on the ground and dropped the f bomb again. Did I mention these are 12 year old girls? Unacceptable! We have a duty to protect our children from a users. We are out of there and will let the other sheep like people continue to drink the koolaid.

Emily Cohen  

I would love to invite that coach to be a guest on my new podcast. I’d love to hear his reasoning and justification for his behavior. Can you put me in touch with him?

Hockey Parent  

My son had a terrible experience this year with his coach. He emotionally bullied and abused our minor child. We went to the association and was ignored, we filed a complaint with our provincial association and was ignored. If this coached had physically abused our child , I am sure that he would have been removed. but because this is up for interpretation nothing has been done. We have filed with the police as we believe that our child has suffered and want to ensure to protect other kids in the future.


I witnessed a coach cuss out 7 yr olds in a practice. pathetic

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