North Carolina High School Athletic Association

The Art Of Coaching — Duke Professor Shares Strategies With Hickory Coaches

Special To The NCHSAA From Hickory Public Schools

HICKORY— “When you belittle or humiliate someone in front of others—you have destroyed the player that you will need when the going gets tough,” according to Dr. Greg Dale, professor of sport psychology and programs for Duke University Athletics.

These words of wisdom served as a reminder during the recent coaches’ conference held at Hickory Public Schools. “Relationships and respect are key building ingredients in any coaching situation,” said Dale. “We need to challenge our athletes, not destroy their confidence.”

Dale also serves as the director of sport psychology and leadership programs for Duke Athletics. He consults with numerous college and professional athletes and teams; and he consults organizations and corporations around the world including The World Bank, Habitat for Humanity International, Airports Council International, Pfizer and SKANSKA International. An author of several books and scripts for a series of videos targeted for coaches, athletes and parents, Dale has been featured on Good Morning American and MSNBC.

HPS superintendent Dr. Walter Hart invited Dr. Dale to speak with the coaching staff of Hickory Public Schools (including high school and middle school coaches). Dr. Hart believes that Dale’s insightful experience and knowledge of credibility extend beyond the competitiveness of the game. “Dr. Dale addresses character and accountability—valuable components in building a successful team,” said Hart.

“Deep down, kids today are very much the same—as they’ve always been,” said Dale. “Technology has changed, parents have changed, but not the kids. Sadly, kids are growing up and struggling with accountability. They really do not know how to fail. Teaching the kids how to be credible is a standard that needs to be taught by the adult,” said Dale.

As Dale requested input from the coaches on methods to establish credibility with athletes—their responses included: consistency, relationships, knowledge, fairness, and living these values. When the coaches were asked how they might lose credibility with the athletes, the quick responses included: lie to your students, be inconsistent, setting low expectations.

Dr. Dale’s presentation stirred dialogue as the coaches reviewed additional concepts and questions:

• Do you create fear or develop confidence?

• Do you fix blames or correct mistakes?

• Do you act like you know it all or are you willing to ask for help?

• Are you humble enough to admit when you are wrong?

• Are you interested in what’s best for you or what’s best for your athletes?

Various debate scenarios were also presented to the coaches. They were directed to move to one side of the conference room based on their agreement or disagreement with the following statements:

• In order for you to be a great coach, it’s important that your athletes like you.

• When it comes to discipline, it’s important to treat everyone the same.

• When it comes to discipline, it’s important to state the consequences in advance.

• Sarcasm is an effective motivational tool.

• Swearing is part of your coaching repertoire.

• You go to state playoffs, and a star player has broken the rules. Do you still let this athlete play in the state game?

Following the debate, the coaches agreed upon a common thread: it’s not about the coach—but about the kids.

In closing, Dr. Dale shared that the coaches need to focus on communication—before, during and after the competition.

“Coaching is a tough field—and can easily consume our lives,” said Dale. “Be sure to maintain balance—as a coach experiences several career stages—survival, success, significance, satisfied, and spent,” said Dale. “With balance— coaches can retain their passion—and stay in the game; not for the ego, but for the love of kids.”