What The Oregon Ducks Can Teach You About Motivation


I saw an article the other day, which I will post below, about the coaching staff for the Oregon Ducks football team. They’re about to play in a couple hours against the Bucks and while the game should be a doozy – I was able to take some lessons from the Ducks…

When I saw this headline, I had to do a double take. It read:

Why the Oregon Ducks Don’t Believe in Yelling

Wait, what?

It seemed like a false lead, but this was in the Wall Street Journal so I read on and it turns out the headline did not lie, the coaches of the Ducks do not yell at their players.

They don’t yell when the offensive line gives up a key sack.
They don’t yell when a receiver drops an easy pass.
They don’t yell when the Quarterback throws an interception.
They don’t yell period.

Now this isn’t some rinky-dink football team who are only in the news because of this odd strategy. This is the 2nd ranked school in NCAA Division 1 football who just happen to be playing in the National Championship tonight.

I played on basketball teams when I was 9, even then I had coaches who would yell at me.

So why don’t the Oregon coaches yell at their players? Being a good yeller seems like it would be a pre-requisite for being a Division 1 football coach.

Simply put, they have come to find that yelling at their players is ineffective. 

Through trial and error the coaching staff has found that Millennials do not respond well to yelling. The old strategy of screaming at players when they make a mistake just does not work. The new method is to simply put their arm around a player and talk to them about what they can do better.

It is strange, it seems counter-intuitive, but it works.

Some old coaches were world class yellers. Bill Parcells, Vince Lombardi, Bobby Knight.

That’s the old school strategy of motivating. This is the new school and while both have their merits and both have their place in the game – you cannot argue with Oregon’s results.

The lesson here is what motivates me may not motivate you. What motivates you may not motivate someone else. It’s all about finding the best method to build up the team around you, even if it’s not what comes natural to you. Maybe yelling will make you feel better, it gets out your frustrations. But in a leadership role you need to be focused on how that affects others. How do they respond?

Are they coming back improved and motivated or are they working out of fear. Tip toeing around to avoid being yelled at again.

Each role is different. What it takes to motivate your linemen may not be what motivates your wide receiver. Each person is different.

If the Oregon coaches yelled at their players would the players respond? Possibly. Probably, but that’s not the most effective method.

In a team environment it isn’t about what worked before, it’s not about what works for some. It’s about what works for the whole of the team and what will make them operate at peak levels.

Going against convention is not easy. It may seem strange to outsiders, maybe even downright laughable. But Oregon’s in the Championship game, so screw convention, they are the ones who are laughing now. What are you thoughts?