Why You Don’t Have to Yell as a Youth League Coach


You may have heard these things screamed at players a youth sporting event. If you are a coach, you may have even yelled them yourself. Consider:

  • “That’s not how we practiced that!”
  • “I can’t believe you missed that shot!”
  • “How could you let him score?”
  • “You’re going to lose us the game!”
  • “Get on the bench so I can put someone in who knows what he’s doing!”
  • “Stop playing so stupid!”

At the high school level, you might hear these things and not be too turned off; loud, negative coaches aren’t unusual, and prep athletes are usually old enough to not take the berating personally. For 7-year-old girls playing rec soccer, it’s officially overboard and unnecessary. Yet, some volunteers only know how to coach this way. Perhaps their youth coaches shouted at them, and if it was effective then, it must be effective now, right?

Even well-meaning, quiet coaches will sometimes lose their cool if their team isn’t playing well. These are busy volunteers who spend a much time planning practices, communicating with parents, and doing everything they can to create a great experience for the kids. But they aren’t perfect. Whether a coach is always obnoxious or occasionally forgets to stay calm, yelling isn’t the best strategy for dealing with your team.

Here are some reasons why you don’t have to yell as a youth league coach:

Winning Isn’t the Goal

For younger kids, the chance to play sports is the reward in itself; winning and losing should be secondary. Some coaches (and some parents) find it difficult to subscribe to this goal—they don’t see the point of sports if there isn’t a winner. Therefore, they yell when they aren’t winning, thus setting off the agitation of opposing coaches who begin to yell. Before you know it, you’re in a viral video on how not to act at a youth league sporting event. Remember this, and tell it to your players: If they had fun, played hard, showed improvement, and were good sports, they were winners, no matter what the score was.

It’s Not Comp

Many rec youth league coaches become disappointed when, after two weeks, their 8-year-old players aren’t performing at a competitive level. Comp leagues and programs exist for a reason: to offer a level of instruction and play not available at the recreational level. Though the merits of this reality can be debated, the fact is, comp and rec are different beasts. Rec de-emphasizes competition for other goals—teamwork, being athletic, and meeting new friends. Coaches may need to accept that their teams may never get to an elite level (and if that does happen, the players may jump to comp anyway). Once they do so, they won’t need to yell because they won’t be chasing a goal that never existed anyway.

Everyone Deserves Respect

If you made a minor mistake at work, do you think your boss would be justified screaming at you in front of the whole company, then expect you to carry on as if nothing happened? More than likely, you would be so put off by this lack of respect that you might start thinking about other employment. So why do coaches think treating kids with the same sort of disrespect on the court or field is OK? It’s not. An argument might be made by some people that the yelling is productive if the child doesn’t mess up again. But for younger kids (under age 10) playing rec, the message is that they screwed up and that warranted a mean adult making them feel bad.

Discipline, Not Destruction

Some yelling, especially from otherwise patient coaches, arises from players not listening or goofing off during practice. This is understandably infuriating, especially if one of your own children is among the troublemakers. Situations such as these require discipline, because just as you are showing your players respect, they should be showing you respect as well. However, the continued bellow of “Cut it out!” tends be ignored after repeated shoutings and, again, isn’t a positive message to send to kids. Take a deep breath, halt the practice, and have the kids run, do pushups or burpees, or simply sit down until the behavior stops. Sending an offending player to his parents to sit for a few minutes can be far more effective than constant yelling—and it saves your voice.

How bad is the yelling from coaches in your youth league?