Photos by R.Stevens
Photos by R.Stevens
Stevens: The Sound of Coaching Can Quiet a Voice
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  04/23/2014

Causes of acute laryngitis can include: 1. Viral infections; 2. Bacterial infections; 3. Straining vocal cords by yelling or talking more than normal.

 By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

The sound of coaching is definitely not the sound of silence.

It can be loud – sometimes very loud and a certain part of the human anatomy can take a beating.  We’re not talking about a player’s ear drums, although those drums might take a pounding, too.

We’re talking throat. We’re talking vocal cords.  We’re talking larynx/voice box.

“Every place I’ve coached I’ve lost my voice,” said Charles McMillian, New Mexico’s defensive backs’ coach.  “Sometimes in the second day of practice.”

Said Lobo offensive coordinator Bob DeBesse:  “I lose my voice on occasion, but usually in the off-season, probably because it had been a few months since I had raised my voice.   I obviously raise my voice and sometimes it gets scratchy or you get a break in your voice and it sounds like you are reaching puberty. The players get a big kick out of that.”

Obviously a coach does not want to lose the ability to communicate, teach and sometimes teach loudly.   A coach raises his/her voice for a number of reasons.  Anger?  Sure. It happens.  But a football coach also has to be heard over long distances and often there are other sounds vibrating across a football field that makes it necessary to put extra demands on the voice box.

There are pads crashing into pads.

There are players yelling encouragement or yelling out assignments.

There are other coaches coaching loudly.

And New Mexico usually practices with some up-beat music blaring across the fields.

But the throat is like any other part of the human anatomy.  If you overuse it, it can become damaged.

Barry Sacks, the Lobos defensive line coach, said in his earlier coaching days his throat became so sore and scratchy that he went to a doctor for an examination.

“The doctor said I had some nodules forming,” said Sacks.  “It happened first back when I was student teaching. I was 22-years-old and everything was about being as loud as you could be.  My throat got sore and I was hoarse all the time from screaming all the time.

“The doctor told me if I wanted to talk the rest of my life I had better start picking my spots and not yell all the time.   I didn’t have the money to go to a voice coach like Coach McMillian.”

 OK, time to set the record straight.  McMillian didn’t go to a voice coach.  His wife, Cydryce, did.  She was having some voice issues coaching volleyball and she discussed the problem with an expert.

Cydryce passed on some valuable advice to her scratchy-voiced husband: start yelling, er, coaching like a singer with the instructions coming from your diaphragm (main respiratory muscle), not your throat.

“I learned from my wife how to raise my voice with the proper techniques of coaching (loudly) coming more from my stomach. So, I don’t yell anymore, I coach from the stomach,” said a smiling McMillian. “I start my coaching from the stomach now and not the throat.

“I still coach with the same passion and there is a tone a coach has to use to let his players know that they are being watched and sometimes what they are doing isn’t good enough.  Since I started coaching from my stomach, I really haven’t had a problem with my throat.”

Said Coach Sacks: “You can find a stern voice that gets the message across without yelling at the top of your lungs. You develop a technique.”

The vocal cords can be strained or damaged from the excessive use of a strenuous voice.  They can shut down. DeBesse said he knows a Texas high school coach, who had to leave coaching because his vocal cords could not take the strain of yelling.  It was quit coaching or quit talking.

DeBesse also said that excessive yelling sometimes is not an effective teaching method.

“Believe it or not, I don’t yell as much as I used to,” he said. “I remember one time at Minnesota I was going ballistic and making a jerk out of myself and I looked up and realized that nobody was really paying attention.

“They weren’t paying attention because I was yelling all the time.   It just wasn’t effective.   I realized I can’t do it all the time.  You have to pick your spots.”

Coach Sacks agrees.

“I don’t think going out there and yelling and screaming makes you a good coach,” he said. “I’ll definitely run up now and then and get emphatic over a coaching point in teaching.  But I’m not going to perpetually scream because eventually they will just turn you off.”