The Rouge: Is calling out players in public a good strategy?

Paul Hoogkamp,

7/26/2010 12:26:45 PM

The old adage 'You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar' does not necessarily hold true in the world of professional sports.

One of the most important jobs of a head coach is to get the most out of their players. Sometimes that means patting them on the back but sometimes it means kicking them in the butt.

Football coaches have been known to peel paint off the walls during halftime rants in an effort to motivate their players. But when a coach speaks negatively about a player in public, it's a different story. Or is it? Is it good strategy to call players out in public?

Earlier this season, Calgary Stampeders head coach John Hufnagel said that defensive end Mike Labinjo was in danger of losing his job if he didn't elevate his game.

"If he plays another game like he did in Hamilton, there will be no more Mike Labinjo," Hufnagel told the Calgary Sun. "I didn't appreciate the way he played."

CFL on TSN analyst Milt Stegall doesn't agree with the strategy and doubts that it results in a positive outcome.

"I don't agree with this scare tactic and I don't think it works," said Stegall. "You call him in your office and you tell him, 'This is what I need you to do and if you don't do this, then we'll get rid of you'."

In front of family and friends in Toronto, Labinjo responded with a solid effort against the Argonauts with Hufnagel even defending him on a costly penalty call. So maybe some players need that fear factor to elevate their game.

CFL on TSN analyst and former Dallas Cowboy Chris Schultz remembers being called out by legendary head coach Tom Landry but worried more about his reputation among his teammates than his public perception.

"It hurts when you see your name in the paper because your family reads about it and you get phone calls about it," said Schultz. "But it's more important as a football player that you have respect from your peers than anything else."

So maybe the public humiliation has little effect in the face of the peer pressure coming from inside the locker-room.

While it's safe to assume there is not a player in the game who enjoys having their head coach disparage their abilities in a public forum, some coaches feel it's a necessary evil to motivate players, and in turn, win games.

History has shown that some players respond to verbal floggings in the media with strong efforts to avoid another embarrassing moment. Belittle a player who then answers back with a big effort, you're considered is a genius.

However, other players respond by losing respect for the coach and refusing to 'go through a wall' for him. Rip a player who then demands a trade, you might be out of a job.

What's a head coach to do? Is it good strategy to call players out in public? It's Your Call.