Ironic Messaging

On a walk one morning I started to think about emotional constancy as a principle of coaching and lightbulbs started going off everywhere…

And I know what you’re thinking…

“Are you a mutant? Because real people don’t have those thoughts on walks.”

Answer: No

Anyway… Let’s just get to it…

Coach Frazier Teaches Math

First, let’s explain emotional constancy. I first came across it in Doug Lemov’s, Coach’s Guide to Teaching.

In this video, the teacher is the ultimate exemplar of “emotional constancy.” You don’t hear:

  • frustrated or judgmental tone

  • “we’ve practiced this 100 times, why are we still struggling with remainders?”

He is neutral, inquisitive, and observational… He gathers the most common error and teaches that “one” coaching point to the class in a way that connects the students to his teaching.

This leads me into Ironic Message 1… But first, a quick definition.

Situational Irony

Situational irony occurs when the actual result of a situation is totally different from what you'd expect the result to be.

Keep this in mind and keep an open mind as this next statement and subsequent explanation may upset you…

Irony 1: The more intense you think your signal is, the more noise you actually create.

If I’m not “intense” with my messaging, how will the players know I care?

If I’m not yelling, am I even coaching?

This is bullshit programming that you must unlearn.

And before you try to cancel me, let me say this… There is a time and place to “raise your voice” or “be more intense in your delivery” but it is more effective when it isn’t the primary delivery choice.

Let’s focus on what matters. Was your message sent AND delivered.

Said vs. Heard

This is where the signal and noise thing comes in. Your perception is not their reality.

When you yell, “play that puck to the outside lane!!!”

Here is a non-exhaustive list of what that player might have “heard”:

  • Wow, who pissed in coach’s Cheerios this morning?

  • He doesn’t talk to our top 6 guys like this, why don’t they get yelled at more, coach must hate me.

  • Again with the yelling? I tuned you out 2 months ago, try a new approach, maybe connect with me.

  • I wish he would just ask me what I saw out there, the game is really fast and I had to make that choice quickly, does he remember how hard it is to play this game?

As a coach, you think yelling tunes them into “what you’re saying.”

It actually tunes them into “how you’re saying it and their story about what that means.”

Do we see the problem? They’re not listening to your words, they’re busily interpreting the meaning.

If your players were your phone they would send a message back to you:

Remember the Intensity of Communication Irony:

The stronger we intend our “signal” to be, the more “noise” we create.

Your intention to “coach them hard” might be the worst thing you could do.


Like the Newsletter? You’ll Love the E-books…

Click below to get my best stuff.