Ben Franklin's Advice to Coaches

By Brian Gotta, President of CoachDeck

I read a quote from Ben Franklin recently which was, “Tell me and I’ll forget. Teach me and I’ll remember. Involve me and I’ll learn.” That is some of the best advice for coaches I’ve ever heard.

We’ve all seen youth-league coaches, after a player makes a mistake, holler at them, “I TOLD you to (fill in the blank)”. I’ve written before about how that type of “coaching” is only an attempt by the coach to save face. He is hoping to ensure the parents watching the game believe that the mistake was not HIS fault; the kid was to blame. Obviously, this coach is saying to the poor kid, but also to the parents, ‘this exact scenario has been covered in practice because I’m a good coach, but you just must not have listened.’

Well, maybe it was covered, and maybe it wasn’t. But if the team did go over this in practice, the important question is, was it learned?

Did the coach simply say to the entire team, “In this situation, you do this and then do that,”?  Or, maybe he even amped it up a little by saying, “In this situation you do this and do that…got it?” Of course, every kid presented with that statement phrased as a question is going to say yes, or else they’re afraid they will look stupid. So, the coach walks away satisfied that he has taught something and that the players understand.

But, according to Ben Franklin, the players that have been told will forget and that will lead to that moment on the field when the coach feels like he must point out publicly that they did not remember.

Now, let’s try adding a step, to help this coach help his players:

Coach: “In this situation you do this and do that…got it?”
Player: “Yes, coach.”
Coach: “Show me.”

Guess what is going to happen? A) The player tries to show the coach what he meant, but the player does it wrong. Now, the coach knows that simply telling him wasn’t enough. Or, B), the player demonstrates what was said perfectly and now the coach knows the player understands. But, more importantly, because the player was made to go the extra mile of showing it, he will now remember it. He was involved in the coaching process.

Here is a simple example regarding base running in baseball or softball. You can apply this to kicking a soccer ball, shooting a basketball; anything. Let’s say I want to teach the players on my team how to properly round first base. Here are three scenarios:

  • One: I simply say, “Run down the line and then when you get about four feet from the base, make a little arc to the right so that you come across the bag directly facing second.”
  • Two: I say the above, but then I demonstrate by running down the baseline myself and showing the proper technique.
  • Three: I say #1, then do #2, and then get all the players in line and have them take turns performing the action.

Which of the three do you think will be more effective?

Again, this methodology applies to almost every scenario you’ll encounter as a coach.

Usually in life reward is commensurate with effort expended. It does take a little more work to show and involve, rather than just tell. But just think of all the effort you’ll save by not having to yell at players for forgetting everything you told them at practice.

Brian Gotta is a former youth baseball coach and volunteer Little League board member. He is the President of CoachDeck and also author of four youth sports novels and a baseball coaching book which can be found at He can be reached at

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