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July 10, 2023   |   Tagged Coaching

Is it time to retire the word "Sugarcoat" from basketball coaching?

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Listening to a podcast by a D1 basketball coach who said that he believes in telling players the truth, but "of course, sugarcoats the message" for his players, we had to pause. We are wrestling with the word “sugarcoat” and think it might be time to retire this world from use in educational and motivational settings. At NBC Basketball we see the job of the coach is to help move the needle for students toward becoming better players and better people. This requires wisdom and the ability to speak with honesty. It requires coaches to be able to encourage—build courage into others. It requires coaches to move (motivate means the ability to move and inspire). It requires coaches to have the ability to equip athletes with the tools necessary to close the gap between reality and possibility.

Sugarcoating means covering an item with sugar. It was used to make medicine more palatable. It also means to make something excessively sentimental or to make it superficially attractive or acceptable. The coach has something to say to the player that he or she perceives too tough to swallow so he or she “sugarcoat” the message so that the athlete can stomach what he or she is saying.

Here is where I have trouble. First of all, the coach sees this negatively. This isn’t something he respects about the players—in fact, he sees with annoyance he has to “sugarcoat” for this athlete what needs to be said. Rarely, have we seen athletes benefit from this façade. People want us to be authentic, fully genuine and fully truthful. If being truthful is being rude, discouraging, mean and oppressive, then there might be an issue with the person’s viewpoint about truth.

A coach should be working to awaken an athlete into a greater understanding of themselves and how to become their best. Oftentimes, a player simply doesn’t see the gap or might be fearful of the gap is much wider than they imagine between where their perception of their current talent is and where it could be. This isn’t a matter of the need to sugarcoat but rather the need to encourage, embolden, to awaken.

Educators and coaches let’s retire the word “sugarcoat”. It has negative connotations, it isn’t admirable, sugar isn’t healthy, and the use of it creates a feeling that we have to mollycoddle athletes into health. It also infers that the encouragement needed to confront change is not the important part—it is the added addition to get to the “good stuff.”

Let’s build a language that increases courage, mental toughness, truthfulness, hope, and a growth mindset. Words matter, they define who we are and where we want to go. As coaches and educators, let's stop sugarcoating anything anymore. Let's awaken, encourage, energize, educate, and strengthen athletes to become their very best.

About NBC Basketball
NBC Basketball Camps began in 1971 and have been training athletes to compete on and off the court for almost 50 years. NBC Camps focus on the importance of skill mastery, mental toughness, encouragement, servant leadership and the power of faith. For more information about the many camp programs located in 6 countries, visit www.nbccamps.com

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