Coaching Psychology

Sports Psychologist Alan Goldberg’s Bad Coaching Behaviours

If you’re reading this post it’s because you’re either into coaching or you’re someone who is into learning about what makes a great one.

Take a look at Dr. Goldberg’s list of examples – of behaviours that characterise ‘bad’ coaching. Here is some sound advice for anyone involved with coaching kids.

There are a lot of “coaches” out there who don’t have CLUE about how to really coach. Unfortunately these individuals consistently do far more damage to young people than they do good.

  • They tear down self-esteem rather than building it up. They create an extremely unsafe learning environment for their athletes. They use fear, humiliation and demeaning, disrespectful behaviors as “teaching” tools. They are emotionally and sometimes (indirectly) physically abusive. They directly and indirectly pressure athletes to continue to play when injured. They regularly kill the fun and passion that their athletes once had for the sport. These coaches have lost their way and strayed terribly far from the true mission of coaching.

You’re NOT a good coach when you call an athlete out in front of the team and tell that athlete, “You absolutely suck! You’re the worst short-stop, quarterback, setter, forward, keeper, etc. that I have ever seen!”

  • How is this kind of a comment constructive? Does it help a child understand exactly what he/she is doing wrong and what they need to do to fix it and improve? How does it help a child learn? Does it motivate an individual to want to work even harder to improve? Does it help that individual feel good about themselves?

You’re NOT a good coach if you think that your most important job as a coach is to win games.

  • I don’t care what kind of pressure to win that you face from the administration. If winning is your primary goal as a coach you have significantly lost your way and as a consequence, you’ll actually win less!

Your mission as a coach is to teach young people and help them grow as individuals so that they become better people in the world, both on and off the field.

  • There are far more important things at stake here than whether a kid wins or correctly learns the x’s and o’s. Good coaches teach their athletes how to be better people in the world and they use their sport as nothing more than a vehicle for this teaching. The winning and losing outcomes are completely secondary to the teaching of valuable life lessons (playing as a team and sacrificing individual needs for the betterment of the team, handling adversity & failure, mastering fear & obstacles, working hard towards a faraway goal, learning to believe in yourself, being a good sport, playing by the rules, etc.)

You’re NOT a good coach when you place the outcome of a competition in front of the physical and emotional welfare of your players.

  • If you pressure your athletes to play when injured or if you demean and ignore those athletes who are too injured to play, then you are engaging in physical abuse. Encouraging your athletes to play hurt so that the team can win is reckless behavior for you as a coach. When you do this you are directly putting your players at risk. You are NOT teaching them to be mentally tough! Playing through pain is NOT a sign of strength. That is a ridiculous MYTH!!!!! Instead, it’s completely ignoring your body’s early warning signs that something is very wrong.

You’re NOT a good coach when you allow players on your team to scape-goat and/or demean each other.

  • Good coaches create a safe learning environment. There is nothing safe about being on a team where teammates regularly criticize and yell at each other. There is nothing safe about being on a team when you are picked on or ostracized by your teammates. It’s the coach’s responsibility to set very clear limits to prevent these kinds of “team busting” behaviors. There should be no place for them on a winning team.

You’re NOT a good coach when you play favorites.

  • Good coaches treat their athletes fairly. They don’t operate with two different sets of rules, i.e. one for the “chosen few” and one for the rest of the team. Coaches who play favorites go a long way towards creating performance disrupting dissension on their squads.

You’re NOT a good coach when you tell your athletes that under no circumstances are they ever to tell their parents what really goes on in practice, and that if they do, they are being disloyal and disrespectful to their teammates coach and the program!

  • Coaches who tell their athletes these kinds of things are terribly misguided and are trying to hide something. What they’re trying to hide is their abusive behaviors! Telling kids not to ever tell their parents is what child abusers tell their victims!

You’re NOT a good coach when you treat your players with disrespect.

  • I don’t care what your won-loss record is or how many championships you’ve won in the past. When you treat pre-adolescent and adolescent athletes disrespectfully you are NOT a good coach. Great educators don’t teach in this manner. They value their students and make them feel that value, both as learners and individuals. Your position and reputation should not determine whether you get respect from your team. What does determine whether people respect you is how you ACT! Your behavior is what’s paramount. Good coaches earn their respect from their players on a daily basis, over and over again based on how they conduct themselves and how they interact with their athlete and everyone else associated with the program. If you think that you’re too important to earn respect, then you are distinguishing yourself as a bad coach!

You’re NOT a good coach when you don’t “walk the talk.” What you say to your players means nothing if it doesn’t come from who you are as a person.

  • Simply put, your words have to closely match your behaviors. Great coaches are great role models in that they teach through their behaviors. They don’t operate on a double standard where it’s OK for them to act one way but hold their athletes to a different and higher standard of behavior. If you as a coach teach through the maximum, “do as I say, NOT as I do,” then you have distinguished yourself as a poor coach.

You’re NOT a good coach when you refuse to take responsibility for your behavior, when you refuse to own your mistakes and instead, blame others for them.

  • The mark of a great educator is that they present themselves as human. They do not let their ego get involved in the more important task of teaching. Therefore when something goes wrong, they are quick to own their part in it. Good coaches take responsibility for their team’s failures and give their team and athletes full responsibility for successes. Bad coaches blame their athletes for losses and take the credit for the team’s successes.

You’re NOT a good coach when you play “head games” with your athletes.

  • If you talk behind their backs, play one athlete off against another or are dishonest in your interactions with your players then you are doing nothing constructive to help your players learn and grow as athletes and individuals. Telling a player one thing and then turning around and doing exactly the opposite is not how you go about effective coaching. For example, promising a player more playing time if he/she does A, B and C, and then keeping them on the bench after they do everything you’ve just asked of them is a psychologically insidious game that will kill your athlete’s love of the sport, crush their spirit and destroy their confidence. This is NOT how great coaches motivate their players!

Alan Goldberg, PhD, was the sport psychology consultant to the 1999 NCAA Men’s Basketball National Champion University of Connecticut Huskies, and the 2000 men’s soccer NCAA champions. He is the former Sports Psychology Consultant for the University of Connecticut Athletic Department. As a nationally-known expert in the field of applied sport psychology, Dr. Goldberg works with athletes and teams across all sports at every level, from professional and Olympic caliber right down to junior competitors. Dr. Goldberg specializes in helping athletes overcome fears & blocks, snap out of slumps, and perform to their potential. His book, Sports Slump Busting (LLumina Press), is based on his extensive experience getting teams and individual athletes unstuck and back on track. Outside of sports, Dr. Goldberg works with performing artists, sales and business people, test takers, and public speakers.

Thanks to Podium Sports Journal for the content. 

Do I need to say anything, I think Alan Goldberg has said it all!!


I always like to hear your opinions. Please comment below or email me If, you don’t have anything to add then please forward this on to a friend. Thanks for reading.

I’m also on twitter @Coachdiary

Irish Grassroots Football The Coach Diary

Don’t ruin your season over a very basic decision….

It’s called the business time of the year as many teams are fighting relegation, or on the brinks of a first league championship or for some it’s a cup semi or even a cup final. Many coaches/managers can’t put their entire season and coach reputation on the line by not being true to their beliefs, players and responsibilities. Let’s not forget, I’m taking about kids football here.

What are you on about, you might ask? Earlier today I received a call from a lady who’s friends son plays for an SSG side. Yesterday they played their semi final cup game but for 3 of the players who had got the team this to this point, it was heartbreak when they arrived at the ground. Dropped and for one reason only, to win the game.

They soon found out why when 3 players showed up from the clubs’s year below team. This might seem trivial enough to some but to anyone who has played the game will know that being dropped for an important game (not having a part to play) like a cup semi, can be a life long disappointment for any child. For sure the kids who were dropped won’t forget this game and they certainly won’t forget the coach who dropped them. After all, kids just want to play.

‘Most kids would rather play on a losing team than sit on the bench of a winning one. That doesn’t mean that kids don’t value winning, just that they prefer playing’

For every player each game is as important as the next one but cup games bring with them a tradition, they bring a slightly different feeling compared to other fixtures. Every child dreams of playing in a cup final, every parents dreams of watching their child perform in one.

For many coaches these games can bring with them unrecognised pressure. The pressure not to lose, not to be deemed as a failure and this is were so many become self obsessed. They think it’s about them, they thinks it’s about this one game; but it’s never about them, it’s always about the kids.

It’s these types of moments that will separate the best from the rest and I’m not talking about tactics. What I’m taking about is being fair to each and every player in your squad. Being fair to the players who have shown up to training week after week. Being fair to the players who have done their best for the team. Being fair to the players who have stuck by each other in the good times and the bad times, but most of all, – being a coach with integrity, with honesty, with loyalty and respect for his players.

‘A good coach supports, rewards, teaches, and makes it fun’

Children understand that their might be better players than them on the team. However they won’t accept you being unfair to them and they certainly won’t forget. After all, the role of a coach is to reward hard work, discipline and commitment. When a player does everything that is required, works on his/her weaknesses and never cut corners. That is supposed to count isn’t it?

Shouldn’t a child’s playing time and a starting position come down to hard work, commitment to the team and showing up for training?  For all the wrong reasons Children will remember the coach who tells them one thing about what he expects but then when you meet those expectations, he goes ahead and does the opposite of what he’s told you. You show up for training, do your best, perform well  and then when it comes down to game time, you find yourself sitting on the bench or even worse, you find kids from the age below brought in to take your place in order to win the game.  For sure this is the one thing that the kids will remember from a coach. It might be the one thing that removes them from the game for ever. Come June, everyone will have forgotten about the cup final but they won’t forget how you made them feel. Not being true to your word and being dishonest and/or disloyal is what you will be remembered for.

“Live so that when your children think of fairness and integrity, they think of you.” – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

To any coach who doesn’t want to fall into this category and be branded for life. Don’t get caught up in the winning of a single game. Be true to yourself, be true to your players (team), give them the opportunity to experience the chance of playing in such important games. Although you may never get to another final, the players will remember how fair you were and not how you won it. For sure, they will never forget these moments and they will certainly never forget how you made them feel.

To the players, if you truly love your game, then try not to let any coach’s unfair decisions get to you. Absolutely, this is easier said than done.  It can be very upsetting and frustrating to have to “play” or “not play” for this kind of coach. The trick however is to try not let any adult steal your joy and love for the game (I know I don’t always get it right but I will always apologise if i get it wrong). Just like in adult life you won’t always have to work with that person, so just like your coach, you won’t always have to play him/her and not all coaches are unfair, many are a great inspiration to hundreds of kids.  Keep doing your best and focus on performance, you can control that. One thing you can do is keep work hard in training regardless if you like the coach or not. Don’t let any coach stop you from working hard!


I always like to hear your opinions. Please comment below or email me If, you don’t have anything to add then please forward this on to a friend.

Thanks for reading.

I’m also on twitter @Coachdiary