Soft vs. Softening


APRIL, 2019

I’ve heard people say, “I’m old-school!” … What does that even mean? Does that mean you’re not willing to try new things? Are you not willing to learn? Are you unable to adapt or adjust?

I consider John Wooden to ‘old-school,’ yet he had the ability to soften his approach. Like Coach Wooden, I believe we can all find ways to be demanding without being demeaning. There is a way to coach your athletes to get the most out of them and reach their full potential without being disrespectful.

A soft coach is someone who doesn’t enforce discipline or help hold their athletes accountable. They’re too sensitive, or don’t have the backbone to tell it like it is and demand higher performance from their athletes. Soft coaches are doing a disservice to themselves, their athletes, and those around them.

Let me remind you, there is nothing soft about holding the team accountable; there’s nothing soft about being a demanding coach! But we don’t have to cross the line to being disrespectful.

Things are different today than they were just a few years ago. I’ve heard people say the athletes are the same but it’s us coaches that have that changed, and I can see where they’re coming from. But, if things have changed then we all have had to find ways to adapt, whether we are coaches, athletes, teachers, or administrators.

HR and Title IX issues are different than they were 10 or 20 years ago. We have to watch the way we talk to people and talk about people. We have to watch the way we interact with our athletes, parents, coaches and each other in ways that are different then we had to. Things that used to say in the locker room are no longer just things that are staying in the locker room.

Coaching is about being DEMANDING, not demeaning.

People have said, “We will have to change or be changed.” I totally agree! We all have to adapt and we all have to grow. Some of us may have to find ways to soften our approach to remain effective, but this is not being soft. There’s nothing soft about effective coaching! We can be demanding without being demeaning!


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