By Dr. David Hoch, CMAA
Depending upon the sport, coaches may have to deal with the media. In most cases, it will be the print media, but radio and television could also be involved. And, of course, there are new technologies such as blogs, Web sites and even Facebook with which you may also have to contend.
Regardless of the media source, how coaches make statements, answer questions or provide information is extremely important. Coaches aren’t simply representing themselves and their teams, often the coach is actually the spokesperson – officially or unofficially – for the athletic program and school.
While the coach may not have asked for this responsibility, it is the reality in many situations. And too often coaches may make off-the-cuff, spontaneous comments which don’t create a good impression and may actually cause problems.
The following guidelines should help coaches prepare to deal with the media.
- Always think before speaking. Consider, for example, how any statement could be perceived by other coaches, parents and community members. The impression that a coach creates can be difficult to change or overcome. Misused or poorly chosen words can often be misinterpreted and can create negative images and problems.
- Never say disparaging things about opposing coaches, teams or officials. Coaches should always work out and deal with problems privately off the field or court. Expressing negative or critical comments in a public forum such as a newspaper article or radio interview is not appropriate and will only magnify or cause greater problems. It is always best to handle these issues with class and dignity.
- Refrain from making critical comments about your athletes and team. Save constructive criticism and corrections for the following day to be covered in a practice session. Don’t air frustrations publicly. The phrase of “Praise in public and criticize in private” should always be followed. And don’t mask remarks with, “I’m just trying to be candid or honest.”
- Avoid referring to the team that you coach as “my team.” In the truest sense, a team belongs to everyone involved and not just the coach. This would also include the players, administrators, teachers and students. A case can also be made that parents, fans and the community also play a part and are invested with some teams.
- Don’t use the following comments when referring to your team:
- “We didn’t come ready to play tonight.”
- “We have to learn to win!
- “Our opponent wanted the game more than we did.”
These statements are actually a reflection on the program and demonstrate a possible coaching flaw. The coach has the ultimate responsibility for preparing his or her athletes and team for each game.
- Don’t suggest after a game that, “We made too many mistakes,” without giving the opponent credit for a good performance and a possible win. Also, never publicly state that the opponent was lucky. One of the basic tenets of good sportsmanship is to respect the opponent, and acknowledging that it played well is an important part of this responsibility.
- Don’t make statements “Off the Record.” Anything you say can and may appear or be used. If you don’t want something in print or on a sound bite, don’t say it. Even honorable reporters may misunderstand or confuse what you have said and it may end up being reported.
- Understand that even when you think that you are saying something in jest, the reader or viewer may see it differently. The standards for humor are not universal and, as a result, not everyone may think what you’ve said is funny. Consider if someone else might interpret your humor in a different light. They might think that you are being serious.
- Try to give credit to the athletes who do the little things that contribute to the team’s success. Everyone recognizes the leading scorer, the most valuable player and the starters. Mentioning other members of the team will go a long way toward creating better team chemistry, effort and perhaps an even more enjoyable season.
Whatever a coach says will be analyzed and judged. While this may not be fair, it is the reality. It is important, therefore, for coaches to be extremely careful crafting answers and comments.
In the early days of television, Art Linkletter frequently had a segment on his House Party show entitled, “Kids Say the Darndest Things.” Considering the impact that coaches have, it is important that you don’t provide the content for a new offering: “Coaches say inappropriate, wrong or stupid things.” Always think before speaking!
About the Author: Dr. David Hoch recently retired as the athletic director at Loch Raven High School in Towson, Maryland (Baltimore County). He assumed this position in 2003 after nine years as director of athletics at Eastern Technological High School in Baltimore County. He has 24 years experience coaching basketball, including 14 years on the collegiate level. Hoch, who has a doctorate in sports management from Temple University, is past president of the Maryland State Athletic Directors Association, and he formerly was president of the Maryland State Coaches Association. He has had more than 350 articles published in professional magazines and journals, as well as two textbook chapters. Hoch is a member of the NFHS High School Today Publications Committee.