In the locker room before last night’s game, one of my players said, “Let’s play so well that coach doesn’t have to yell tonight”, to which another responded, “Do whales shit in the ocean?” While cryptic, I took this to mean that unless all whales do all of their shitting while beached, my yelling during a game is regarded as something of an inevitability. This incident came on the heels of a talk I had with my coaching mentor, Matt Hixenbaugh, about communicating with the players and left me to ponder.
I think of myself as a communicator more than a yeller, and I concede this may be self-delusion, but I believe yelling is an important communication tool. When I yell it is generally with a purpose. Even in a sparsely crowded gymnasium, speaking to someone 40-50 feet away is impossible to accomplish in a conversational tone set aside the fact that the person I am trying to speak to is likely distracted by other activity or thoughts. The yell is used to penetrate these discractions and get the attention of the intended recipient.
In coaching, the timing, more specifically, the urgency of the communication demands that it gets the attention of the players and conveys the pertinent information concisely. If a player is lined up improperly, running the wrong play, failing to recognize a tactical change by the opponent or simply unfocused, yelling is the most effective means to communicate.
I have rules for yelling. If I yell at a player, it is sharp and brief focused on the exigencies of the moment. It is not personal or prolonged. It is then forgotten. If I yell at an official, it is generally muffled into my hand, a classic example of this technique can be seen in the archival footage of the State 6A Final from 2006, or while I am walking away from the official to diminish the general confrontational vibe. If I yell at the team, it is to literally awaken them from a slumber to the reality of the situation. This occured Wednesday night against Oviedo at the end of the first quarter when we trailed 21-13. We lacked alertness and were settling for three point shots. I needed to yell to convey to the players that what we were doing was not ok. We were not a clever play call or defensive change away from getting back in the game, we required a change in attitude. When I yell in this manner, I do not single out individuals, and will attempt to include some memorable phrasing that upon further reflection might be funny. The message is conveyed, but it is tempered.
On a final note, I’m out of eligibility, and my yelling during a game is often a reflection of my energy. Interesting story, in our second game we played Brantley and in the first half were tremendous defensively. We were defending in front of our bench and I was up and yelling the entire half……”stop ball…close out….balance….box….rebound….go!” By the half, I was freaking exhausted, but we were great. In a recent practice, we went against the varsity playing our “13” defense for twenty minutes. I really got into it. I was yelling, celebrating, jumping around with every pass. My guys were awesome. Perhaps they were just up to play those 20 minutes, but I noted a correlation between my energy and theirs that would not have been possible if I had been sitting serenely in a medically prescribed chair with a championship ring for each finger.