Plan to Catch them Being Good

Catch them being good. That’s the name of a terrific book by Tony DiCicco who coached the 1999 World Cup winning women’s soccer team. You remember it, don’t you? When Brandi Chastain fired the game winning penalty kick past the Chinese goal keeper? 5-4 USA! Then Brandi stripped off her jersey in exultation, displaying her ripped torso adorned only in a sports bra. Oh my. Should women be allowed to do that?

No, don’t answer that. It’s no snarking week. We are banished from things spoken from a critical spirit. (Though, as Carol told me at the picnic yesterday, no one can criticize the blog post this week. Whew!)

Better stick with catch them being good. Tom’s challenge in the sermon yesterday to ‘corner the criticism’ and his example of the wagging tongues on the soccer sidelines made me think of a practice developed by the Positive Coaching Alliance that we employed the years I coached a travel soccer team. It’s called, “positive charting.”

It’s a simple thing. You make up a sheet with the names of all the kids on the team with a few empty lines after each name. Then stick the sheet on a clipboard with a pen (or copy and clip several) and hand it to one (or more) of your parents with the instructions: “For each kid, write down good things you see them do.” ‘Good things’ was broadly defined. It could be soccer skills, sportsmanship, coachability, kindness. It just has to be good.

Then, a funny thing happens. When parents start looking for the good they see on the field, they overlook the not-so-good. Especially in their own kids. They are furiously writing,  capturing stuff I missed or never would have noted as a coach. Truthfully, I knew this would be positive for the kids; I didn’t realize how positive it would be for the parents (and the coaches).

After the game, I would thank the parent(s) – usually several – who captured the good things and stick the clipboard in my bag. Next practice, the girls warmed up and then sprinted to the team huddle where they sat and looked at me expectantly. That was when I read out “the good things.” You should have seen how those faces glowed. They knew their name would be called and praise would be offered. For kids who are subjected to evaluation all the day long, counting on complements was a bit of a welcome respite, I guess.

Now, full disclosure: had I not adopted the PCA’s postive charting I never would have had these moments. And neither would my players.


About wlebolt

Life comes at you fast. I like to catch it and toss it back. Or toss it up to see where it lands. I do my best thinking when I'm moving. And my best writing when I am tapping my foot to a beat no one else hears. Kinesthetic to the core.

Posted on September 3, 2012, in Sermon Response and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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