Monday, January 19, 2009

Talking from the Sidelines

They are NOT listening to what you tell them from the side lines. Why try to get their attention at all when its clear they need to focus on what they are doing?

Do not call to a team mate who is on the field unless you really, really need to get their attention.
Players must focus on the game at hand; their mind should be clear of the unnecessary.

"Nice Cut Tom!"
"Stop Getting Broken Tom!"
"Huck it Tom!"
"Yeah Tom, Nice Break!"

All of these serve to take Tom's focus off the game which is where it should be. Just think, would Phelps have done so well if he was thinking about his potential sponsorships. No, that "In the Zone" state we athletes desire requires that all our attention is on the relevant tasks at hand. We don't need to get mad at ourselves, we don't need to be impressed with ourselves, we can't have others make decisions for us. "In the Zone" = "Tune Everything Out" except the 14 on the field and the disc.

Notice that all the examples above have the player's name in them. After practicing that focusing ability, we get good at tuning everything out, BUT OUR BRAINS ARE HARDWIRED TO PAY ATTENTION TO CALLS OF OUR OWN NAME! It is not impossible, but the desirable full-focus mental state is very hard to attain with shouts of your name.

You respond to your own name well because it is a great way to get ones immediate attention:

"Lisa, give this man 20ccs of bromoethylene dioxide, Stat!"
"Chris, for the upcoming few points I want you to force your man under and put a flat mark on him"

Calling a name works in the way it is supposed to. They pay attention to the voice. Do you really want your team mate to pay attention to what you are saying as opposed to what is going on within the field?

I cannot tell you how many times I have seen someone muff a catch because a teammate cheered "Great Cut, Rick!" right before he received the disc. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen a player get yelled at directly to stop getting broken and only get broken more because he becomes flustered and mad. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen total tunnel vision caused by the sidelines yelling for a particular throw. We sidelines teammates certainly don't want theses things but in my opinion, yet we are to blame for some of them.

You might say though, that the sideliner can make better decisions (he can see the whole field) and thus should tell his players what to do with the disc. This is wrong in a few ways. First, deciding what to do and doing it are not seperatable action. Deciding on a throw and doing it are one in the same for me. Secondly, normally, the decision of what to do, and assessing whether you can complete that task, happen more accurately inside the head of the thrower. We don't blame sidelines for throwaways, we blame the thrower - let the thrower decide what is right to do.

At first, you might think about how its a way to teach, instructing from the sidelines. To this I first counter by asking what players aren't learning. If you didn't tell them what to do, would they they be more able to think for themselves, see the whole field, and stay focused? Also, if a person actually DOES need to know what to do or does need congratulations during the point, that person should not be on the field, especially not on offense.

So what should we do on the sidelines? I like the idea of many many spectators - so much noise in a stadium that there is nothing to concentrate on but the game and thus bench-sidelines don't need to say anything. For Frisbee, I think general noise is good because it is a generalized stressor that raises adrenaline levels. Especially on D, players need that adrenaline but not the direct comments:

Work hard!
UC Us D!
Get Down, Get Down!

If you are cheering, you should pick from this list

PS- "We gotta win this game" and "We gotta score this point" are not motivational at all. Please stop with them.

PPS- Stop Yelling "No Break!" all this means is that you arent supposed to get broken. DUH. What you mean is "Shift Around!" so say that or say "Shift Inside!".

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