The Words Coaches Say

Mike RiceWith my team’s season over, I’ve had a chance to watch a variety of games in the past week.  As the stress of post-season builds, it’s fascinating to watch the effect that coaches of all levels have with their words.  As we connect the three points of basketball, life, and faith on 3 Point Wisdom, I usually begin with a basketball concept, but today I’m going to flip that around.

FAITH – Be wise in your words!

Solomon advises us in Proverbs (18:21):

21 The tongue can bring death or life;

Think about that – death or life?  And everything else in between!  Our words have incredible power.  Since my family loves the style and message of today’s Christian music, we’ve enjoyed a new release by the band Hawk Nelson over the last few weeks – so much so, that as I watched coaches this week, I couldn’t help repeating the words in my head!

Our words have incredible power and we are encouraged to take ownership for that power.  It has nothing to do with emotion like anger or disappointment, but everything to do with the words we choose and the messages we convey.  As the song says, “let my words be true.”


Sticking with the family theme, we’ve had times in our house when we had to focus on the words we were using at home.  After all, if you can’t control your tongue with the people who love you most, how will you control it with other people?  We came across a helpful tool that we post on our refrigerator to remind us to THINK before we speak:

T – Is it true?  H – Is it helpful?  I – Is it inspiring?  N – Is it necessary?  K – Is it kind?

Seems pretty simple doesn’t it?  It’s amazing to see how often we can avoid the wounds created by our words and better yet, to see the growth in our family, when we THINK about how our words affect each other.


In games I watched this week I saw both sides of the coin from coaches, as well as parents.  In one middle school game of an elimination tournament, one coach asked a 13 year-old who had just missed the entire rim on a free throw, “Why did you do that?” as he subbed the player out of the game.  Now, I’m pretty sure the player wasn’t trying to shoot an air ball, but the coach certainly let everyone know of his displeasure.  Sadly, that possibly may be the last basketball memory this young player may have and what a memory to live with!  Words can hurt, especially words from your coach!

Wooden & PlayerIn another scene, I saw a high school boys team lose in a sectional final game, one step away from being in the semifinals of a state tournament.  As the team members fought through tears and received medals at mid-court, the coach took the time to whisper thanks and encouragement to each one.  He put his hand on their shoulders and spoke what I can only assume were true, helpful, inspiring, necessary, and kind words.  Words that will stay with those players for a lifetime.  Quite a difference, isn’t it?

As coaches, we some times get angry, get frustrated, or grow impatient.  We’re competitive and we’re trying to instruct, but shouldn’t we take a closer look at our words?  John Wooden once said, “A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment.”  That can only be done if we choose our words wisely.  As I hear Coach Wooden’s thoughts and consider how I have grown in this Dungy_Manning area, I’m encouraged by the recent example of former NFL coach, Tony Dungy.  His book Quiet Strength is a wonderful illustration of how today’s coach can learn to build players up with the power of words.  If you feel convicted in any way about the impact of your words when dealing with your players, take a closer look at Dungy’s approach and “let your words be true!”




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