26 November 2010

Coaching Tension: When Coaches are More Tense than Players


Isa na lang point kukunin natin!!! Walang tensyonnnnn!!!! [There’s just one more point to get!!! No tension!!!]

Thus screamed the Adamson Lady Falcons’ coach at her players while they walked towards her for a time-out at set point of a university volleyball play-off five-setter.

The “duh-look-who’s-tense” look her players gave her as they approached said it all…


The coach has my sympathies. Her team trailed two sets to none early in the game, won the next two and was now on the brink of a Herculean comeback. And now up by two and just a point to go…

Tension? I doubt her players felt any. If anything, nearing the end of this classic five-setter, fatigue and the consequent loss of focus were more the factors to contend with in the next few minutes.

Anyone who has played competitive sport will say that, after the first few minutes, and especially after sweat starts to break and flow, tension is gradually released and the athlete is allowed to perform as he or she has trained for.

The same does not happen for coaches, who have to sit and silently suffer on the bench. Some sports allow coaches to throw tantrums along the sidelines… That certainly helps to relieve some of the emotional turmoil… But there are those, like volleyball, where decorum is not only prescribed but also very much expected.


Early this decade, Kobe the basketball coach was with me during a football game and could not quite believe that I was sitting unemotionally watching my college team go through a semi-final penalty shootout. Honestly, he was a hundred times more likely to suffer a heart attack than I was.

What he did not know was that it took an immense amount of discipline and dying many deaths in previous shootouts to enable me to keep that poker face while each penalty kick was being taken. After all, if a coach cannot calm his or her wards down in a tense and emotional match, then who can?

The Lady Falcons did go on and complete the comeback, but their coach will realize when she sees the replays how silly she looked and sounded. She still has my sympathies, though…

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