I would not want to play for Mike Zimmer - Correcting Mistakes During Games - Being a great gameday coach Part 2 of 8

Published: Fri, 01/15/16

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Being a great gameday coach
Part 2 - Correcting mistakes during games

It's fascinating to watch the demeanors of coaches at the highest levels on the sidelines.  The contrast in reactions by two coaches really stood out to me watching two crazy NFL playoff games last weekend. I'm a Cleveland Browns fan - so it pains me to admit it - but i LOVE the demeanor of Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburg Steelers. He has a calm confidence about him that enables his team to play fearlessly. On the flip side of that, I was so disappointed with how Mike Zimmer from the Minnesota Vikings responded to his kicker missing a short game winning field goal. Here's the transcript from his response in the press conference:
Q: On the field goal, was there anything you go wrong as far as the snap or hold?
A: Snap spot was maybe a little high, but it’s a chip shot. He’s got to make it.
Q: Did you say anything to Blair Walsh after the game?
A: No, I have not said anything to him.

What?!?! You haven't said anything to him?? 'He's got to make it?!?!' Think about playing for a coach who responds to physical mistakes like this. Would you feel empowered and excited to go play great?  Or would you play worse because you are fearful of the reaction if you make a mistake.

This week let's break down how to respond to physical mistakes that your players make during games.
  1. Make a conscious effort to not pull a kid from a game immediately after he makes a physical mistake.  Cornerbacks will get beat deep for touchdowns.  Point guards will turn the ball over.  Shortstops will throw the ball over the 1st baseman’s head.  ONE OF THE BIGGEST MISTAKES YOUTH SPORTS COACHES MAKE: MAKING THE PLAYERS PLAY IN FEAR OF MAKING A MISTAKE.  Don’t embarrass the kid after making a mistake by yelling at him from the sideline or pulling him immediately.  Utilize the next play stoppage to teach him how to do it better - and put him right back in the game. Then use practice time to coach him up.
  2. ‘In youth sports you cannot play with a piano on your back’– Kids can’t play with coaches hounding them about mistakes and taking away their confidence. Be relaxed. Smile. Enjoy the game. Avoid phrases like ‘Try harder’ or ‘Run faster’ – these commands often tighten up a player’s muscles and stiffens them instead of loosening them up.
  3. Turn the finger around. A vast majority of all mistakes that KIDS make haven't been properly taught in practice. If a team isn't rebounding well- how much time are you spending teaching it in practice? If a team isn't tackling well- quit spending all of your practice time running scrimmages to put in new offensive plays and spend most of your time practicing tackling.
  4. Encourage errors of aggression, not errors of omission. Will Cromack shared with me on a recent podcast 'Who is going to be brave enough to try this new move during the game this week?'  Then celebrate the effort, not the result.
Let's raise kids who are risk-takers and excited to try new things in life and learn and grow from our failures. Next week we'll look at how to keep things in perspective on game day.
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Craig Haworth is the founder of Winning Youth Coaching, a site dedicated to helping coaches and parents make youth sports an awesome experience for the youth and the parents.  He interviews coaches from around the world and posts them on his podcast, which currently has over 65 interviews and has been downloaded over 50,000 times. He writes a weekly note to coaches and parents. He is married to his high-school sweetheart and they share the blessing of 3 children and live in Franklin, TN. You can sign-up for his weekly note here, find him on twitter at @craighaworth1, or visit his website winningyouthcoaching.com.
"It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men"
- Frederick Douglass