Parenting from the stands

Originally published by Los Angeles Sports & Fitness, September/October 2016.

Toward the end of an u14 girls’ soccer game, a father yelled to his daughter, “Don’t forget to have fun.” The comment stood out because it was the first positive comment from a parent during the entire game. I turned to another player standing near me, and asked, “How are you supposed to have fun when you are yelled at constantly?” She rolled her eyes and said, “Tell me about it.”  Read more

Punishing a Lack of Talent


Last season, our volleyball team had an opinionated senior captain. We also had a number of junior varsity players who could not get their serves over the net.

Now, a high school player should be able to get her serve over the net, but we had several first-year players and smaller than average players.

When we discussed our serving woes, the captain suggested that we make the players run if they missed a serve. This is a common coaching tool. Many times, a coach assumes that players make mistakes due to a lack of concentration and use sprints as a punishment.

However, this mindset errs in three ways:

  1. None of our players intentionally missed her serve. They wanted to serve well. Therefore, their misses were not due to a lack of effort or desire. Punishing a player for missing her serve would be punishing a lack of skill.
  2. The players who miss their serves need to spend more time practicing their serves. What happens when they run as punishment? They take fewer practice serves.
  3. When a player serves, if she worries about running rather than serving properly, the fear of punishment steals her concentration. For a player struggling with her serve, a loss of concentration is not going to help her serve better.

For the varsity players who serve pretty well, the captain’s suggestion may have some merit. When varsity players miss their serves in practice, it is often a lack of concentration. A punishment for a missed serve would not be a punishment for lack of skill or a skill error, but a punishment for not concentrating or focusing on the task.

For the junior varsity, punishing missed serves is punishing a lack of skill. These players need more practice, not fewer repetitions. While the captain meant well and offered a suggestion based on her club volleyball experience, one must think about the purpose of the punishment and if it meets the objective.

Will making players run because they cannot get the serve over the net suddenly make them get the ball over the net?

Lack of skill does not deserve a punishment – it requires more instruction. For some, it took guts to try a new game at a competitive level as a high school sophomore. Do we want to discourage them?

By Brian McCormick, M.S.S., PES
Coach/Clinician, Brian McCormick Basketball
Author, Cross Over: The New Model of Youth Basketball Development
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League

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