SportStars Magazine

Behind the Clipboard: Coaching is Teaching, Really.

Coaching is Teaching

When Slow Is The Way To Go!

R.G. of San Jose asks, “We have a young coach for our position group, and he’s really smart, but he talks really fast and tells us a lot in a hurry. He’s always rushed because he says he has so much to teach us, but a lot of times we don’t feel we understand what he’s trying to tell us. And he doesn’t like questions because it slows him down and he says then he can’t get to everything he needs to get to. So we have to go along and then we make mistakes because we didn’t really understand. What should we do?”

Sadly, your coach isn’t the only one — old or young —  who doesn’t realize how much of coaching is really teaching.

It starts with something we all do.

We know what we’re talking about, and so it’s obvious to us how what we said before connects with what we’re going to say next. That means we assume anyone who doesn’t get it is either not paying attention or not very bright.

As a coach then, if I’m talking about how we’re going to cover trips, I have in my mind exactly what we’re going to do. So I say it once, and move on, because it’s so clear to me.

Often, though, “what we’re going to do” involves two or three basic concepts melded together in a way that not everyone has dealt with before, so really, the coach should

a) talk about each concept

b) talk about how they fit together, and

c) then and only then what the total package will be.

So your guy isn’t doing that. He’s impatient with questions, and no one wants the coach mad at him because then you don’t get to play.

But this is a team problem, because if your group doesn’t completely understand what they’re trying to do, they’ll make mistakes that will hurt the team.

Unfortunately, the way to deal with this kind of issue — in sports, at work and in life in general — isn’t easy.

In your case, you and another player (more than two is really too many) should meet with the coach after practice.

Hey Coach, can we talk?

You may have to set it up in advance, or he may be the kind of guy you can approach and say “Hey, can we talk to you in private?”

OK, sure, that’s hard. But for the good of the team, you have to do it.

And then you have even more hard things to say.

Start with something like, “Coach, we really appreciate how hard you work and how much you’re teaching us, and we’re getting better every day.

But sometimes it’s hard because we don’t quite understand everything. And sometimes it seems like you don’t want us to ask questions.”

Another thing we all do: When we’re wrong, we get defensive and make excuses. (It’s easier to stay calm when you know you’re right.) So if you bring this up, the coach will likely defend himself and say you guys don’t listen.

You have to be as mature as possible at this point and first, try to see if he’s willing to listen, and second, not get defensive yourself.

If it looks like the conversation is going nowhere, just back off and say, “OK, coach, thanks for listening. We appreciate that. See you tomorrow.”

If, after that first burst of defensiveness, the coach calms down a little and you think you can communicate, then explain yourself further.

Coaching is Teaching

A good young coach will either think about what you said later, or talk it over with you then, but at that point, that’s all you can do.

You gave your boss information, and now it’s up to him to use it.

So try asking a question the next time he explains things and see if he’s a little more patient, a little more willing to explain.

If not, you tried! And sometimes that’s what you have to live with.

I wish there were a better/easier answer, but that’s a tough question. Here’s hoping he figures out that coaching is teaching and sometimes taking it slow is actually faster.

Clay Kallam has been an assistant athletic director and has coached numerous sports at high schools throughout the Bay Area. To submit a question for Behind the Clipboard, email him at

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