Sunday, April 19, 2009

Principles in Coaching

Quoted from Good Sports, John McPhee’s coaching philosophy boils down to a simple dictum: let them play.

“First, no shouting, no embarrassment, no humiliation. Be the same to every kid. Respect them. No berating, no browbeating. Don’t treat the star any different than the kid just learning the game. Be a model, be an example. Kids are enormously, exquisitely sensitive, and you never know what slight, or what quiet compliment, will linger in their souls.

“Second: don’t talk too much. Give them the rules and tools and let them learn the game themselves. Kids learn by seeing and doing, not by listening. Scrimmages teach more than sermons.

“Third: scores don’t matter. You’re not coaching to win games. They’re not playing to win games. You’re all in it, at that level, to learn the language, the rules, the discipline, the fun of it.

“Fourth: everyone gets equal playing time. Period. No exceptions. One thing I hate about bad coaching is seeing kids who never get off the bench. That’s insulting. That’s terrible coaching when kids are young.

“Finally, most important of all, the whole point of coaching, the whole point of kids in organized sport: teach them to love the game, to love to play. The only measure of success for a coach is if the kids come back to play the next year. If they don’t return for a second season, you weren’t a good enough coach, period.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Motivation and Success

I came across Stanford Professor Carol Dweck's work on motivation, personality, and developmental psychology. There was an interview of her by Education World in year 2000. Some of her responses are still surprising today.

"Education World: Some students are mastery-oriented; they readily seek challenges and pour effort into them. Others are not. Have you been able to pinpoint in your research any direct associations between students' abilities or intelligence and the development of mastery-oriented qualities?

Carol Dweck: This is a really interesting question, and the answer is surprising. There is no relation between students' abilities or intelligence and the development of mastery-oriented qualities. Some of the very brightest students avoid challenges, dislike effort, and wilt in the face of difficulty. And some of the less bright students are real go-getters, thriving on challenge, persisting intensely when things get difficult, and accomplishing more than you expected.

This is something that really intrigued me from the beginning. It shows that being mastery-oriented is about having the right mind-set. It is not about how smart you are. However, having the mastery-oriented mind-set will help students become more able over time.


EW: If praising for intelligence can be a negative thing, what about labeling kids as "gifted"? Could that do more harm than good?

Dweck: Labeling kids as gifted can sometimes do more harm than good. The label "gifted" implies that you have received some magical quality (the gift) that makes you special and more worthy than others. Some students are in danger of getting hung up on this label. They may become so concerned with deserving the label and so worried about losing it that they may lose their love of challenge and learning. They may begin to prefer only things they can do easily and perfectly, thus limiting their intellectual growth.

Psychologists who study creative geniuses point out that the single most important factor in creative achievement is willingness to put in tremendous amounts of effort and to sustain this effort in the face of obstacles. It would be a tragedy if by labeling students as gifted, we limited their creative contributions.

However, we can prevent this by making clear to students that "gifted" simply means that if they work hard and keep on learning and stretching themselves, they will be capable of noteworthy accomplishments. Of course, that is true of many, many people. "

The whole interview is at

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Definition of Discipline

In an earlier post, I highly recommended Dr. Robert Brooks' book "Raising Resilient Children", a must-read for parents.

I also subscribed to his montly newsletter. In the most recent letter, he discussed discipline and it is absolutely enlightening - "Interestingly, when I initiate a discussion about discipline, almost all children respond as if discipline were synonymous with punishment. I might add that their parents respond in a similar fashion. That is understandable since the word discipline typically evokes images of punishing or being punished."

"we must remember that the word discipline stems from the word disciple and is best understood as a teaching process. As a form of education, discipline should not be associated with so-called teaching practices that serve to humiliate, scare, or embarrass children. I emphasized two of the main functions of discipline. One was to ensure a safe and secure environment in which children not only learn the importance of rules, limits, and consequences but they also appreciate the reasons that rules and limits exist."

"The second purpose of discipline I highlighted was to develop self-discipline or self-control, a major skill that underlies success in almost all facets of our lives. Self-discipline implies that children have incorporated rules so that even when adults are not present, they will act in a reflective manner, assuming ownership and responsibility for their behavior."

You can read the full article in