20 May 2011

Shouting at the Boys


One of the boys from the first group of high school kids I ever coached likes to tell – to this day – his team’s first encounter with me back in 1982. Classes for the day had ended and he and his teammates were on the field, suited up and shooting at the goal. It was also raining hard and the grass had begun to cut up.

I had actually forgotten all about that first day, but according to this boy – nay, he is already a man into his forties – I announced myself with purpose, shouting at the group, “Get out of the field! You’ll ruin it!”

There are people who knew me in the eighties who remember me to this day as the coach who always shouted. That was probably true; and indeed, I have always been passionate about the game and not just coaching.



Truth be told, the coaches at the volleyball and basketball courts were shouting as well. Their voices were just not as loud as mine. When I come to think about it, they probably never needed to shout as loud as I had to; and for the simple reason that they did not have as much space to project their voices through.

I cannot imagine somebody with a squeaky voice succeeding as a football coach. The field is just way too large for that person to – well – squeak his way through the job.

Although most boys who trained under me will attest to the fact that I was pretty meticulous in how I taught and developed basic skills and coached tactics, in the eighties I was young and often overzealous and shouted incessant instructions from the sidelines whenever my teams played matches.

Primarily, it was for me a way to release all the nervous energy that all coaches tend to bottle in within the course of a game. Being still young, I did not handle that energy very well. Having been quite a decent player myself, the nervous energy also tended to be exacerbated by irritation whenever any of the boys mucked up something that I thought was pretty simple and straightforward.



There was this one game in the regional stage of what used to be called the Coca-Cola Go-for-Goal when the coach of the other team – which my team was reducing to pulps – could stand the humiliation no further and walked all the way to where I stood to tell me, “No coaching from the sideline!”

My retort was immediate and haughty, “Ay anong paki mo?”

I know… I know… I should not have replied so caustically just as he should never have walked to me in the first place. I mean, nothing in FIFA statutes stated that a coach could not shout from the sidelines. The very thought of it was plain stupid; in a stadium with fifty thousand passionately shrieking fans, even if the coach shouted, he would not be heard.

However…

Towards the end of that decade, I chanced upon a reference book written by a respected British coach in one of my frequent sorties to the National Bookstore. The book was, in many ways, an eye-opener to the many aspects of football management. Everything was there from what to advise the players to eat to how to book hotel rooms for away games to sending flowers to players’ wives when their birthdates came.



There was one insight written by the author that forever changed my outlook and approach to coaching. A coach that shouts continuously from the sidelines, he wrote, is a coach who did not do his work during the week.

The coaching really ought to be done, he went on, during the practice sessions. These are when it is all about the coach. Come the weekends, it is all about the players. In other words, the coach should do his job on weekdays; and let the boys play when the weekend matches come.

If the coach has done his job during the week, then the boys should be alright during match day. Whatever things do not go well are to be noted and then corrected – unless tactical corrections are needed on the spot – during the succeeding week’s training sessions.

Napahiyâ naman ako sa sarili ko…

I realized that I was not helping the boys at all by thinking for them and shouting out what they were supposed to do. Moreover, since the levels of play are affected by players’ composure, I realized that I was only communicating my own nervous energy to my teams by being restless on the sidelines.


From that point on, I tried to curb the urge to holler incessantly during matches – particularly when things were not going well. Oh, I have never been a saint and to this day can still let fly scathing invectives if the occasion calls for it! In time, however, I did learn that I could think more clearly if I was less agitated. When things were not going well, my teams needed me to think – not be angry.

The more recent groups of boys I worked with will have absolutely no idea how many vile invectives I had to deliberately bite back before I eventually learned to sit passively on the bench. Getting older – and more experienced, less excitable – naturally had a lot to do with this as well.

These days, whenever I see a coach – in whatever sport – nervously pacing the sidelines, continuously shouting instructions and going into a rage whenever things do not go well, I just quietly smile to myself.

Hindî ‘yan nagtrabaho during the week…

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