Geno Auriemma: Why Body Language Matters

Ice Hockey Coach Body Language

This is perhaps the most important video I’ve watched this year as it pertains to my coaching career.

For the past few years as I’ve worked with players ranging from 8 years to 18 to 26, I’ve struggled to answer a simple question.

Why does body language matter?

I mean, as coaches we know it matters, we know bad body language is aggravating and doesn’t accomplish anything and we know positive energy and visible passion is good.

But Why?

Why does bad body language create such a negative impact? Surely each player is an individual and one poor personality won’t affect the actual on-ice performance of a teammate, right?
Not so, says Geno Auriemma, the head coach of the University of Connecticut’s Women’s Basketball Team since 1985 (!).

“They haven’t figured out what foot they’re going to use as a pivot foot and yet they’re going to act like they’re really good players.”

For Auriemma, the influx of sports on television, highlights, and seeing the game from every possible angle through social media channels is twisting the role model relationship young athletes have with their heroes. It’s leading to bad body language. It’s part of what’s defined his entire recruiting strategy.

UConn Women’s Basketball recruits people who:

  • are upbeat, love life, and love the game
  • have a tremendous appreciation for when their teammates do something well
  • have good body language

“If your body language is bad, you will never get into a game. Ever.”

Coach Auriemma would rather lose than watch kids play the way some kids play <- his words. There’s a lot of pressure in every sport, and it doesn’t matter if it’s minor hockey, basketball, football, or professional or university sports; coaches have pressure to win.

Inspire Connect Lead

And it’s easier to win with your best players in the short term. Ain’t no denying that. But in the long term? If we can get past our tunnel vision during a game to do the right thing? The phenomenal thing about Coach Auriemma’s message is he doesn’t compromise. He coaches based on a system of beliefs and values and he doesn’t stray from that system.

And this is a college coach with a job on the line. A job that’s been on the line for 32 years.

So far so good.

We let kids get away with poor sportsmanship and bad body language all the time. We’re pressured by parents, our organizations, and our own desire to win.

Well, I’ll tell you this: bench a star player for bad body language and not only will you immediately see the impact on that individual, but an impact on the entire team.

Me, Me, Me

So why does bad body language matter? For Geno Auriemma, it matters because it poisons the team. It’s a distraction. It affects performance throughout the lineup.

“I’m not getting enough minutes so why should I be happy,” Auriemma says, paraphrasing a situation that I’m sure he used to see often, but doesn’t any more. “That’s the world we’re living in.”

When Coach Auriemma watches game film, he watches for players who aren’t engaged and that’s what helps him set upcoming lineups.

For me, bad body language is a signal. It’s a reaction to an event that if perceived negatively by a teammate, instantly starts to unravel the thread of a team.

Bad body language means you’re quitting. Bad body language means you can’t handle adversity.

Bad body language means your team isn’t worth it.

It happens all the time. So let’s put a stop to it.

 

Check out the man himself.

See Also

The Coaches Site Ice Hockey Videos

Kelvin is an assistant coach with the UBC Thunderbirds Men's Varsity hockey team and a freelance hockey writer.