What Are You Really Angry About?

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Coaches are stereotypically prone to outbursts of anger. The image of the red faced coach is so pervasive in our (sporting) culture that every comeback victory is invariably accompanied by some form of the narrative ‘The coach must have really laid into you guys at half time.’ Indeed my most embarrassing moment as a coach involves shouting at my team during a timeout and realising that the spectators behind the bench were applauding me.

I am aware of no research that recommends the use of anger, and that kind of behaviour would not be tolerated, let alone encouraged, in any other workplace.  Despite that, every coach knows that shown judiciously, emphasis on judiciously, it can have a positive effect on a team or individual.

Like everything else, the onus is on the coach to understand it and himself to ensure that it becomes a positive exception rather than a negative rule.  Too often however, the coach is not fully aware of either himself or the actual object of his anger.  The most obvious example is of the coach who shouts at the younger players on the team.  In almost cases he is not really angry at that player.  It is much more likely that he is angry at the older player to whom he ‘can’t’ say anything. So he takes out his frustration on someone else.

With me, I find that my anger is rarely directed at what I am actually angry about (if I am honest this is not only about coaching, but everywhere else in my life too).  Mostly I am aware of my mood before interactions with the team and am able to temper any outbursts.  Sometimes I am not aware of some bottled up frustration until it finds an outlet at practice.  Then I have to go away and search myself to learn what is really bothering me.  Sometimes it takes a while.  Sometimes I am surprised at what I find.

In the end there is almost nothing that happens on a volleyball court that should provoke anger.  After all, it is only a game, and it is played by human beings, in all their fallibility.  If you are angry, maybe the player or referee is not the one you are really angry about.  And in that case he / she certainly doesn’t deserve it.  Like every coaching problem, search yourself for a solution first.



  1. At the level I coach in Spain, I get really angry with coaches who get angry with their young players! Don’t pass on your personal problems to your players who are probably doing their best and should enjoy the experience of playing.


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