Why sarcasm doesn’t work

Why sarcasm doesn’t work

By Sarah Stone WTCA COO/Founder and Dr Michelle Cleere  

Sarcasm is destructive. It is a form of teasing that can be detrimental to an athlete’s confidence and security.  So why would a coach want to use sarcasm as a way to communicate? Maybe they are just sarcastic in general, perhaps they get nervous around new students or it’s possible that those one-liners are meant to be an ice breaker. It’s even possible that they don’t know they are doing it.

When a coach walks onto the court with a new student, the relationship begins. When coaches use sarcasm to belittle an athlete or to showcase their own knowledge or intelligence, it is extremely injurious to both the athlete’s success and to the bond between coach and athlete. A successful coach player relationship often comes down to a coach understanding the players personality and adapting, usually not the other way around.

Personality is difficult to define due to its complex nature.  However, one definition is the characterization of individual differences. It is a well-known fact, and often cliché that everyone is different, but it is true. The fact that everyone is different is extremely important when it comes to sport and coaching. As a coach, it is essential that you understand the personality of your athlete in order to optimize the transmission of your message and their subsequent performance.  As an athlete, it is important to understand the significance of personality and its potential effect on performance.

There are many reasons why sarcasm doesn’t work with female athletes one being, athletes are often highly critical of themselves.  Sarcastic, joking remarks  are not usually well received and can cause resentment towards the person making the remarks.  Whether immediate or long term, these remarks cause hurt feelings and feelings of betrayal. Many athletes initially do not  respond to sarcastic comments.  Often responding leaves them vulnerable to what they feel are further attacks.  Webster defines sarcasm as,  “marked by or given to using irony in order to mock or convey contempt”.   Therefore, there is no place for sarcasm in coaching female players.

Tips for meeting a new player:

  • Greet them with a smile!
  • Be understanding and be a good listener
  • Use empowering language
  • Use their name 
  • Be positive and use affirmations 

Coaches need to remember that you only get once chance at a good first impression. Assuming that the player gets your sense of humor and takes sarcasm well will often times be the beginning of the end in a new coaching relationship. Look for ways to compliment a new player on things you like about her game or perhaps great things other people have said about her strengths. While it is completely appropriate to have a laugh with your player, make sure that those jokes are not at your players expense.