Coach’s Log, Entry 10: The Correct Use of Force

Coach’s Log, Entry 10: The Correct Use of Force

May 25, 2022

It’s been a bit since I last logged an entry here. I could make excuses, and they would be good enough, but how would that support my dictum of no trying and just doing?

This entry seems more necessary today than I gave it credit a few days ago. Conversations with colleagues and strangers show me the confusion my coaching style causes. 

I’m here to make it all a little clearer or to offend anyone who has told me I am doing this wrong. 

The confusion I mention above presents itself as opposition to my coaching philosophy. And may I say this opposition is misinformed and guided by an archaic understanding of performance. 

Note: The correct use of force can influence positive behaviour changes and affect performance. But a proper definition of force is necessary to achieve this properly.

The Correct Use of Force
Defining force

In defence of their coaching methods, one of my colleagues said, “You need to understand that kids need structure. They don’t know what they want, you have to show them”.  

I will not mention any names today, respectful of the chance some people need to change their ways. However, I do dedicate this entry to the person making that statement. 

And I can’t entirely disagree with their argument; we all need structure to achieve our goals or have order in life. And the truth is that even adults don’t know what they want at one point or another. 

To that colleague, I replied, The problem is not that these conditions exist; the issue is that you assume I don’t know that and think that the only way to address them is by being mean and offensive to your athletes – through the inappropriate use of force. 

Using force correctly
Children need structure

What Is The Correct Use of Force?

Let me start by explaining what force is not (or should not be) in the coach-athlete relationship context.

Warning: this is where I get offensive.

Force is not calling athletes names to get a rise out of them, worse, to bring them down. There is no place for offensive language in the gym. And I mean NO PLACE. No exception to this rule exists.

It’s difficult for me to understand why anyone would resort to name-calling in any situation. Grow up.

Moreover, a proper definition of force should not include attacks on an athlete’s character or self-image. Negative comments about their body or their nature are absolutely forbidden.

Again, I don’t know how any adult could think this kind of communication is acceptable in any context. Let alone when children are concerned.

And finally (for now, because I have volumes to say on this subject), Ignoring or neglecting an athlete is a harmful approach to coaching. Disregarding anyone’s needs will negatively impact their self-esteem and, eventually, their self-perception.

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The definition of force I observe in my coaching style is about applying stress strategically to lead the athlete in the right direction.

Identifying and defining the consequences of behaviour in the gym and restricting those consequences as critical to success is one way to apply healthy stress during training.

I will write more about different types of stress in the next entry.

Setting healthy boundaries between coaches and athletes is essential to controlling the amount of force we use in the gym. You can love your athletes deeply; as Bato says, you should, but remember they are not your buddies. Some communication, especially regarding personal experiences, is inappropriate.

Understand that the consequences and boundaries you set in the gym must ALWAYS keep your athletes’ emotional, physical, and psychological health in mind.

If you can’t understand this simple point, you should not be in any position of authority, especially over children.

Thank you for reading. 

— Coach José

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