“If you hear me snap twice”

“Children are human beings to whom respect is due, superior to us by reason of their innocence and of the greater possibilities of their future.”

Just yell louder

To assemble rambunctious children many coaches simply yell and then yell louder, “come on guys, line up and get ready for practice”. “Hey, let’s line up — we don’t have all day.” Simply yelling the orders seldom works and often leads to even more chaos. These common responses show little respect for the kids and the learning process.

There is a better way.

Act like a dog

One of the most effective coaches I witnessed over the years acted like the children’s favorite animals. One day as the eight-year-olds arrived at baseball practice he walked around like a puppy dog and made funny sounds. I watched this successful coach bark like a dog “ruff, ruff, ruff” and stroll around making dog-like gestures. He would follow the young players barking like a labrador or poodle as he signaled for the players to line up by home plate. In a way he was herding the players toward a goal. He had a goal to have the children respectfully and quickly form teams. He was respectful, it was funny, and it worked. I decided to time these funny experiences to see how long it would take the players to line up and how many were laughing as they got in line. It took less than a minute for the players to assemble and seldom did the coach say a word. This experienced coach knew that the children like dogs and enjoyed the fun way he modeled in a funny way what he wanted the players to do. With no yelling and plenty of humor the coach got the children to model what he wanted them to do. They respectfully lined up for practice. They respected the coach without knowing exactly why.

If you hear me snap twice

Another story depicts how a very creative coach promoted silence in a large room of loud children. This crafty coach modeled respectful behavior by quietly repeating, ‘If you hear me snap twice”. This sounds simple, but it worked like magic. I personally counted how long it took this role model to bring a group of noisy children to complete silence. 16 seconds! The coach had prepped her campers for weeks about the importance of being respectful in meetings and the importance of showing respect. She taught the campers that instead of yelling she would simply say “if you hear me snap twice”. She taught the young children that she respected them and that she did not want or need to yell. The young athletes wanted to be first to snap as the others quickly caught the message. The campers respected the coach because she respected them. The coach put into practice one of Maria Montessori’s principle. “Children are human beings to whom respect is due, superior to us by reason of their innocence and of the greater possibilities of their future.”

The creative teacher understands how children learn

Too many coaches yell for too long, “everyone be quiet” only to fall on deaf ears. In these cases, the children keep talking and the only tool the coach has left is to yell louder and finally to employ a position of power. These coaches fail to model what they want to teach. Many leaders employ techniques they learned playing sports as a child. If we believe activities such as sports promote positive learning then we need to better understand how children learn and the role we play as leaders in the learning process.

The key point is that we model the lessons we want to teach.

​Dr. Beedy is a leader in the field of child development. At Harvard, he studied with psychologists Lawrence Kohlberg and Pulitzer Prize winner Dr. Robert Coles

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