Does Verbally Abusive Coaching Work?


My thoughts on whether a verbally abusive coaching style works and if it is worth it.

Responses (26)

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  1. Greg
    July 24, 2015 at 4:09 pm · Reply

    Great video thank you for making it as it’s such a great reminder. Coaching requires a ton of patience and encouragement–and ultimately, students feel that love much more and need that love much more than any negativity.

    Would you be able to share the Loehr talk that you saw as well?

  2. Gary Regan
    July 6, 2015 at 3:49 pm · Reply

    YES! I have been through the abusive coach. Comments like “You suck” “That was a fluke” I bet you can’t to that again” and further abuse caused me to leave him. I reported him to our association but they did nothing. I realized later that he actually did not know how to coach. He did not have the ability to help me improve and actually taught me a few wrong things. He had originally approached me and asked if he could be my coach.

    It was tough and took about a year to find another coach who I wanted to work with. Before and after him all others were decent people.

    When I see the old coach at tournaments he makes comments about my play to me. He stalks me, watching all of my matches. He tells my current coach that I do not have the head for the game.

    At one tournament a ball rolled on from the neighboring court to our court during our point and I called a let. I was playing one of his players. He ran on to the court calling for the head umpire and accused me of cheating.

    I have not played locally for a couple of years as I am afraid of how he affects me during matches. I spend thousands traveling to play

    My current goal is to forgive him and to let go of these feelings. I have been trying to do so for a while but honestly. He really scares me.

    In order to succeed I must move on and make room for better thoughts. To maintain focus. I will try to play locally again this year.

    • Jorge Capestany
      July 6, 2015 at 9:32 pm · Reply

      Thanks for sharing. He sound like he has a lot of issues. Like I always say, life brings us enough dram that we do not need t take on other peoples dram as well. I suggest you blow him off and don’t give him another thought. He obviously is insecure and probably cannot deal with the fact that you left him. Be glad you did.

  3. Kim Williams
    July 3, 2015 at 4:06 am · Reply

    After many years absence from the game I am back coaching. There is nothing to commend verbal abuse by any coach in any sport! Jorge, you hit the nail on the head. My old tennis coach was Charlie Hollis, he taught Rod Laver and many other champions. There was discipline but never abuse, there was expectation sometimes unfulfilled, but never abuse. You can see the results in the attitude on the court. If the attitude deserves rectification start with the coach!
    Thanks Jorge I am learning lots from your videos, please keep it up.

  4. Jamie Dieveney
    July 2, 2015 at 4:27 pm · Reply

    Great topic Jorge! I’m a big believer in giving our students hope, courage, and confidence to reach their full potential. When coaches get verbally abusive, students play out of fear and I believe that fear gets in the way of their creativity. It’s been really fun living in Seattle where Seahawks coach Pete Carroll coaches from a positive approach.

  5. Don Dickinson
    July 2, 2015 at 2:39 pm · Reply

    I’ve enjoyed both discussions on sports psychology and verbally abusive coaching. For almost 30 years the USTA has bitten off on the sports psychology methodology and it was refreshing to hear that perhaps a systematic ritually repetitive approach should be questioned. I remember asking Rod Laver at our tournament in Tucson with the Grand Masters what he was thinking when closing out a set. His Aussie buddies said he was the best closer it the history of tennis. Laver’s reply was something like, “I don’t think of anything, I just play.” (not a lot of scientific rituals here).

    In regards to verbally abusive coaches I think a distinction must be made between techniques used by a coach that challenge a player to do better and the aggressive power statements made from an authoritarian despot who simply is exercising dominance in the relationship to heighten stature and ego. I played for some coaches that could be described as verbally abusive at times, but in every case I was challenged to do better. The acceptance of the challenge came from a under-current of my understanding that the coach cared for me. I would do anything to meet the challenge. Inherent in the challenge was the belief that I had the capacity to perform at a higher standard. The coach held this view and believed that I could meet it; the words used demanded a higher effort on my part.

    Life sends us many difficult challenges and looking back I value the conditions of playing through some demanding challenges put forth by coaches. At the same time co-operative coaches deliver a super atmosphere for athletes to grow and progress, especially over the long-term. They are special, just like you.Thanks for the discussion and videos.
    One of your former coaches–Don Dickinson!

    • Jorge Capestany
      July 2, 2015 at 6:12 pm · Reply

      Coach Don! Everyone, this is my junior and college coach Don Dickinson… Great guy. Thanks for your insight Don and I am glad you are following the videos I have been posting.

  6. Tom
    July 2, 2015 at 1:50 pm · Reply

    Thank you Jorge. In watching your video and reading some of the posts, the point that sticks out to me is that it is important and necessary to be supportive and non-abusive while challenging, being somewhat demanding, and being firm with your expectations when working with kids. Structure and expectations foster understanding and respect and with good and constant communication should help coaches avoid the need for abusive language or tirades that can have a long lasting affect on kids.

    • Jorge Capestany
      July 2, 2015 at 6:12 pm · Reply

      Great points Tom…

  7. Dan
    July 2, 2015 at 1:38 pm · Reply

    Nicely done. I can’t understand why there should be any debate or controversy on this topic. We would not tolerate an adult physically abusing a child. Why would we tolerate a coach being verbally or emotionally abusive to a player?

    • Jorge Capestany
      July 2, 2015 at 6:15 pm · Reply

      I think the only reason we have a debate is because people can point to some successful coaches who are abusive. Then they rationalize that they must be the best way. I can not say that abusive coaching never works, it has produced good players in the past, but the bigger picture for the long run is what it does to the players and if there is a better way.

  8. Howard
    July 2, 2015 at 1:16 pm · Reply

    Thanks a lot Jorge,
    You are lucky to have a nice daughter to coach. I have 2 boys.
    I do believe coach need to be strict with his or her students. I read a story that a student showed up with his mom carrying his tennis bag. The coach told the student that he won’t be accepted to the class. He told the student and his mom nicely but firmly.
    Thanks again

    • Jorge Capestany
      July 2, 2015 at 1:26 pm · Reply

      Thanks Howard. I agree that it could be a red fag when a player walks up with a parent carrying all their equipment. Rafa Nadal has been taught by his uncle Tony that he should carry all his own gear and Rafa actually does that.

  9. GLowe
    July 2, 2015 at 1:06 pm · Reply

    Great topic and well put, as always. Sometimes the player can be doing enough damage with negative self talk that they need their coach and family to be the anti virus software. When you have a verbally abusive coach it’s like doubling the effect. Thanks for sharing Jorge!

    • Jorge Capestany
      July 2, 2015 at 1:29 pm · Reply

      Great point!! As coaches we need to realize that the verbally abusive coaching may be coming from the player themselves!! This is a point that I make in the mental toughness video series that I have for Free – It can be downloaded at…

  10. Tony Fox
    July 2, 2015 at 1:04 pm · Reply

    What clearly needs to be defined here is what you mean by verbally abusive coaching equally detrimental to a player in the long run is coaches who consistently tell their players all is well when they actually are not. We have evolved into an area where everything a player does is OK. Simply put praise is for the extraordinary not the ordinary. False praise breeds sense of false security

    • Jorge Capestany
      July 2, 2015 at 1:32 pm · Reply

      I agree Tony.. I call that the “parrot” coach. Its the coach who stands on the court spewing a steady stream of “nice shot” and “that’s it” when the player is clearly not hitting the shot correctly. These are usually burned out coaches that are just putting in their time and really not developing any players.

  11. Fred Burdick
    July 2, 2015 at 12:30 pm · Reply

    Hi Jorge, I too have been coaching for a long time, 43 years to be exact. My observation is that tyrannical coaches are those that focus on winning. If their student doesn’t win then it reflects on the coach and by God they are not going to lose. I tell my students it is not their job to win. Their job is to preform and that is where their focus should be. I ask them to let me worry about wins and losses. If the team doesn’t win the player is not the one that get fired.

    • Jorge Capestany
      July 2, 2015 at 8:57 pm · Reply

      Nice to hear from you Fred… I like your point, and lets not forget that many times it is the PLAYER that is the one obsessed with winning and perhaps this is why they tolerate an abusive coaching style.

  12. Steve Mayhew
    July 2, 2015 at 10:44 am · Reply

    Great topic. I’m a P.E. teacher and the first person I think of is BF Skinner. Look him up when it comes to positive reinforcement. I agree with you!

    Steve Mayhew

  13. Marc
    July 2, 2015 at 6:33 am · Reply

    Does being verbally abusive work….of course it does. However, I believe it is far inferior to an atmosphere of mutual respect between the teacher and the student. The biggest issue I see between coaching with fear and coaching with respect is that it is far easier to get quick results using fear. Developing students using respect takes far more effort, strategic design, energy, and time than fear.

    • Jorge Capestany
      July 2, 2015 at 12:04 pm · Reply

      Nice perspective.

  14. Pam Sinclair
    July 2, 2015 at 6:33 am · Reply

    I don’t think verbal abuse ever works in any team, sport, work environment. A good coach needs to be able to “read their kids” I have two that play tennis, my older is sensitive and struggles with self confidence verbal abuse causes her to shut down and become uncommunicative. My younger one has confidence to spare, but also responds poorly, he just decides the coach does not like him and he does not like the coach, so does not bother to listen.

    • Jorge Capestany
      July 2, 2015 at 12:05 pm · Reply

      Your point is very solid, that each player responds very differently to different coaching styles.

  15. mark
    July 2, 2015 at 3:05 am · Reply

    Jorge, totally correct, and i admire your political correctness with your comments!
    We are so much more than tennis coaches out there, i think its developing the player as a person first and then a tennis player.
    Be firm, but be positive, be constructive, but be fair.
    Love your website,

    • Jorge Capestany
      July 2, 2015 at 12:07 pm · Reply

      Thanks for your comments Mark. I know that most people will agree with my view, but unfortunately there are still too many tyrannical coaches that ruin the experience for players.

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