Stop Using These Two Words with Your Players

Effective communication is the #1 skill a good coach needs at any level, from youth beginners all the way to college. The same thing is true with our work and personal relationships. See how two little words may be undermining your message to your players.

We've heard some very good coaches say that coaching or leading any kind of team is "20% about X's and O's and 80% about motivating your people."

lacrosse coach speech half timeIt's a thin line that can make or break any great Coach Speech. By paying attention to how you deliver your message, and making a simple change to eliminate these two negative erasers, you can very likely get much more out of each of your players and the effort and attitude they bring to your team.

Both of these words can "[act] like a mental eraser and it often buries whatever you’ve said before it," according to a Fast Company article by Gwen Moran, "The One Word That's Undermining Everything Else You Say."

So who are the two little culprits?


"But" is a separator, a negator. It merely delays the delivery of bad news, of criticism, of failure. It means, "I don't agree with you."

When you tell one of your players, "Great ground ball out there, but..." it negates the positive of what you just said. How we expect that message to be received is often different than how your player receives it.

...and "Just"

"Just" is a minimizer. It reduces the difficulty or importance of what you are asking your players to do.

"I just need you to go out there and play good defense." Playing good defense is actually really difficult, and it may be especially difficult for that particular player because of his age, size, athletic ability or experience. That one little word loaded the statement with judgement. It wasn't even necessary, it just gets added in sometimes.

"When you are giving orders, be clear. You may think that the word 'just' softens the orders, hoping that you don’t sound too harsh. But the truth is that it probably results in members of your team feeling unappreciated for their effort and energy," says Shari Alexander for Entrepreneur Magazine in her article "The One Word Leaders Should Stop Using."

If you are using a lot of justs in your speaking, you also risk minimizing your own role, experience, authority and value. Just just weakens everything when it's used where it shouldn't be.

The Good News Is--It's Easy to Fix.

Moran suggests replacing "But" with "And" whenever possible. Now you are using a joiner, a connector with your players, instead of a separator, a negator. Join two ideas together.

"Great ground ball out there, and next time you can look up to pass it right away."

We've also heard some really great coaches say things that acknowledge their players' ideas and concerns with a simple statement like, "I hear you." And "I can see it your way."

For "Just" you can simply remove that word as a qualifier before you speak. Pay attention to your own language when you are with your players or teammates. You'll probably be surprised how often you use both of these words!

If you aren't getting the results from your players that you would like, perhaps take a look at your language and how you are delivering your message.

Related: Check out this Great Advice from 3 Great Lacrosse Coaches

Even if you don't use "But" and "Just" very often, at least investigating why you aren't getting across to your players might reveal areas where you can make improvements. This is the process of becoming a better coach and communicator!