When to Coach: During or After Play?

coaching 1

You’re not a newb anymore: you’ve been playing for a couple of years, have been to tourneys and can be recognized by polo players outside of your club. Sure, you’re no A+ player, but you can hold your own against even the toughest players (note: in the case of playing Portland United or the Beaver Boys, “holding your own” means you don’t cry uncontrollably).

So you’ve already made it past the question “should I even tell this guy what he’s doing wrong?” The question that you should be asking yourself now is this: when is the best time to bring up something another player could work on.

First, let’s set a ground rule, here: if the other player knows that they are doing something silly (scooping the ball out of the court), there really isn’t much need in coaching them out of that behavior. They know it’s stupid, you know it’s stupid, and that’s that. What I’m talking about are the mistakes the players make and are unaware of: the little errors that add up to missed opportunities. The things that you can easily see as a flaw in their play but they, perhaps, cannot.

But when is it best to bring up these mistakes? Should you (after the play itself has stopped and you’ve moved back to your own net) bring it up with the player? Should you do it as soon as possible? Or maybe wait until the game is over to pull them away from the group and explain how they can improve?

It comes down to a few things, I find:

  • Level of emotion
  • Relationship with player
  • Severity of mistake/error

Level of Emotion: Did the player make a mistake that was clearly a result of their own frustration, did they make a mistake and then throw their mallet? In these cases, it’s best to lay the hell off of them until they cool down. They won’t listen to anything you say, and at worst you can make the situation much worse by seeming condescending (even if you truly are not trying to be).  In this case, wait it out until after the game and then bring it up in a gentle, “hey buddy” sort of manner. 

coach 2Relationship with Player: Do you even know this kid, or did they just start up the sport? If they are brand new, chances are they’ll be really happy to listen to you, but might not understand how to implement your suggestions or be super scared that they doing everything wrong. Consider your audience: can they even understand the advice your giving, do they consider you a trusted and respecting source?

Fortunately this can be grown over time–there are players in Lancaster United who tell me what I’m doing wrong, and I listen to every piece of suggestion they provide. There are others who give me some tips and I simply ignore (vaguebooking ftw).

angry coachSeverity of Mistake/Error: did they just put their mallet under their front wheel? That’s probably worth talking about, but not something worth explaining. Did they just use their mallet as a tomahawk against another player’s leg? Well, that’s worth pulling them out of the game and having a long talk about being overly violent. For everything in-between, there is the wonderful grey area of this question. The severity and level of error they made should dictate when you respond. So if they are making a mistake that can cause harm to themselves or others, it’s worth correcting on the spot. If it’s something that will hurt their game over time but isn’t necessarily dangerous, then perhaps wait until an opportune time, but not necessarily right away.

Also make sure to consider each person’s personality: have they expressed a dislike of being corrected in front of others, or are they pretty cool with it? While we’re all tough people (ahem…), we do have feelings and egos. Keep in mind how much that can play into how well your advice is being taken.

Sharing is Caring
Facebook Twitter Stumbleupon Tumblr Digg Email

Add a Facebook Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *