Neoliberal Coaching

So, there is lots to write as I am currently on an amazing cross country trip, visiting friends and potential graduate schools. I am however, also doing some transcription work about the experience of a Mohawk teenage girl's lacrosse team for an upcoming documentary. It's pretty fascinating, with a lot of really powerful reflections on what the sport means to a project of cultural revival and assertion of Mohawk sovereignty (honestly, I never had really thought about lacrosse growing up despite being surrounded by it.) 

Anyways, right now, I am transcribing the experiences of one of the girls on the team and her discussion of two different coaching styles. The first coach, her dad, was incredibly hard on the team- making them work themselves to exhaustion year round, continuously pointing to ways in which the team could have done better- even when they won games. Despite this brutal coaching style, it lead to a really strong and unified team that was constantly pushing each other to try harder. 
Their second coach however, takes an aggressively positive attitude that rewards everyone for "showing up" and chastises individual players for criticizing each other or giving honest feedback. This sort of relentlessly positive individualism, that focuses on the feelings of the individual rather than the success of the team is precisely the environment I was raised in, where everyone got a reward and no one would be criticized for not trying hard enough. This "positive-thinking" coaching was coupled with an evaluation of the game not based on team unity but based on statistics about the game. As with many types of rationalization and the use of empirics to judge performance, this further divided the team leading players to focus not on their collective performance but on abstract results. 

I can't help but feel like this contrast speaks to the manner in which a neoliberal rationality has infused itself in the coaching of sports: think positive, don't criticize or speak truthfully to others, focus on improving the numbers. Such a rationality might serve well if you want to work in a company that is relentlessly positive and focused on regular improvements in quarterly reports. For a group of people who want to hold each other responsible, think tactically and struggle for collective liberation however, I suspect a slightly more demanding and critical coaching might be better.