“Are you just going to stand there?” The question, not directed to me, came with a harsh tone and a stare at player on the opposing team yesterday morning when I was playing pick up ball. The coach (and mom) in me cringed as I back-peddled on defense. Then the question was followed by several more choice words of advice. I’ve heard it all before, negative coaching and yelling from parents, players and fans over the years and I don’t like it. I watched the young player who had received the question, hunch over a bit. His eyes lowered. I know the yeller meant well, he wants the player to get better, learn to hustle, to be a better teammate, and I’m sure he didn’t see a thing wrong with his question. But is this the best way?

I don’t think so. Unfortunately, it happens a lot. Earlier this week while watching a high school boy’s rec-league game I listened as one of the boys hollered at his teammate and rolled his eyes. “Give me the ball! I’m open!!!” His teammate was surrounded in the key. His post player could have gone up for the shot or kicked the ball out to a waiting guard, so it didn’t hurt to let him know there was an open man to release to, but it was the tone, a “hey stupid why don’t you get me the ball” tone as opposed to a “hey teammate I’m right here to help you” tone. Help bring your team together with positive energy.

When I was playing yesterday morning, against the young kid who’d received the not so subtle brow beating, I was quick to say, “way to hustle,” when he hustled, and, “nice pass,” when he did just that. It never hurts to be positive. Encourage fellow teammates, players and your kids. If you are trying to help someone get better, explain what to do and keep it positive. Instead of “Are you just going to stand there?” how about, “Break out fast and I’ll hit you for a layin.” And follow up with an encouragement when it happens.

So next time you’re coaching, cheering or playing, think about your tone and keep it positive, because the difference between building a player up or tearing them down, is all in the tone.