How NOT to coach kids: cursing, demeaning and using laps as punishment
By Greg Bach
ESPN broadcaster and former collegiate athlete Brooke Weisbrod has never forgotten a high school practice she endured years ago following a loss.
Among the lowlights of that session: lots of put downs, cursing and laps as punishment.
“The coach had gotten really upset and the next day at practice we didn’t touch a basketball,” recalls Weisbrod, a college basketball standout at Coastal Carolina University who was the 2001 Big South Conference Player of the Year. “He made us run by the number of points we lost by, so it was like 30 laps. We went up and down the stairs and we repeated and we repeated. So we were all exhausted and I just remember him getting up really close to my face and he threw some curse words my way and told me how bad I had played. I will never forget that because that did not motivate me one bit.”
Her story is a powerful reminder of a coach’s impact, and how not to work with young athletes.
“What a coach says has so much power and in that instance those are the words that he chose to use, and that’s not what it’s all about,” Weisbrod says. “Kids are there because they are trying their absolute hardest so let’s figure out a way to ignite that instead of coming down with the hammer because times have changed and that’s not the way you do things anymore.”
A MESSAGE THAT MATTERS
Thankfully, Weisbrod had the opportunity to play for many outstanding coaches throughout her athletic career, and she gained valuable insight on the right ways to connect, motivate and lead that she calls upon and uses these days.
“Any advice was like a free education,” she says. “When I look back and see what connected the dots it was all those times having people who could teach me the right way that changed everything.”
So Weisbrod welcomes opportunities to give back to young players, guiding and encouraging them.
And being a positive influence in their lives.
“When I’m in the gym with kids they just want you to be real with them and authentic,” Weisbrod says. “They see everything that’s going on and they want to take it in, that’s why they are there. So my intention is to have them walking away motivated, having learned a new skill that they are excited to practice; something that they can do on their own.”
She points out that young athletes need to focus on the fundamentals, and that’s a great reminder for today’s volunteer coaches to keep their practices dialed in on honing those skills that are instrumental for enjoying the sport and working together as a team.
“Don’t focus just on game play,” she says. “Kids need to focus on what skills they need to develop, not their ranking, or who is in the stands looking at them. They need to worry about what they can do to put their energy into getting better and being a better player and the results will happen for themselves.”
Just like they did for her.
MEMORIES OF MICHAEL
Born and raised in Ohio, Weisbrod loved all sports growing up. The Nerf hoops hanging in her and her sisters’ bedrooms were probably a sign that she was destined to become a great basketball player, though early on it was tennis that tugged at her heart.
Until a certain high-flying, tongue-wagging, No. 23-wearing Chicago Bull got her attention.
“Michael Jordan opened my eyes to the game,” she says. “Growing up watching him play was everything. I would be traveling for a tennis tournament in the summer but my mom and I would make sure we got back to the hotel in time so I could watch the NBA Finals. It was beautiful to me, and it was rough and it was physical and it was all of these different things, and I wanted to be a part of it.”
A gifted and hard-working athlete, she lettered in three sports at Coastal Carolina – softball, tennis and basketball – though it was the basketball court where she made her biggest mark, becoming just the second player in school history to record at least 1,000 points, 300 rebounds and 200 assists.
And it’s the basketball court where you can find her most often these days too, serving as an analyst on ESPN broadcasts of men’s and women’s college basketball games.
She’s enjoyed the journey, one that began with a love of sports early on.
“We had a huge backyard growing up,” Weisbrod says. “So we would make up all kinds of games with different sports and just play.”
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