Why Do Kids Point Fingers?

Posted by Marc Mangiacotti

I have always told my athletes that if they do EVERYTHING I tell them to do and they don’t succeed it is completely my fault.  I also tell them that if they skip ANYTHING I prescribe, I am not responsible for their lack of success. For some reason, I usually have a student-athlete who cuts corners and relentlessly asks me why they are not running faster or improving.  I bet all of you coaches out there have encountered this same problem.

Each year I have at least one athlete who cuts corners and has an unsuccessful season as a result.  This same athlete is always the person who tries to point their finger at me for their lack of success.  My staple line is to be careful when you point a finger at someone because there are always three fingers pointing back at you. These kids need to take some responsibility.

A while back I posted a link called “How Bad Do You Want Success” on my Facebook page.  All of my friends in the coaching world loved watching the video.  I thought my athletes would benefit from the inspiring message so I emailed them the link to the youtube clip here below.


The motivational speaker parallels ones desire to breathe while drowning with the desire to become successful in life. In the video he says, “When you get to the point where you want to be successful as badly as you want to breathe then you’ll be successful.” I am 100% sure all of the athletes understood the message he was sending. I am not 100% sure it will stick with all of our athletes.  I guess time will tell.

Three of the Brown javelin throwers took the speech to heart.  They even decided to make their own training video with music and parts of the speech from the youtube clip. I must admit, they did an exceptional job demonstrating their training, drills, and most importantly their dedication. See below.

How can you get the entitled athletes to understand that they need to take responsibility?  I think the solution is having an effective role model who can help shape these athletes views on individual accountability.  Our head coach at Brown University had Trinity Gray come in to speak with our team.  Trinity is our school record holder in the 800m with a time of 1:44.9 (that’s blazing).  One of the points he made was how he had teammates that didn’t go the extra mile in training and never reached their full potential.  He remembered how all of the student-athletes who did everything plus a little extra were the same ones who were standing on top of the podium at championship meets.  As he said this I looked at my athletes and I started to see the light bulbs go off in each sprinter.

Related: Wondering when and how to Test your sprinters this season? Read: Testing

After the speech I noticed an instant change. Several of our team leaders took this to heart and started doing extra drills, stretches, hurdles, and exercises at the end of practice.  Many of the younger athletes started to follow suit.  The “corner cutters” looked confused and upset at this notion of doing extra.  Eventually these athletes felt left out and joined the masses.

If you can motivate a few athletes to get the ball rolling it can be infectious (in a good way).

The summer is a great time for coaches to start looking at what worked and more importantly what did not work the previous year.  As a coach I have realized that I cannot be quick to point my finger when an athlete does not reach their full potential.  Even when I point my finger, there are three fingers pointing back at me as well.  The summer gives me a little extra time to reevaluate and check myself. Right now I have an Ice Cube song featuring Das EFX song playing in my head (Check Yo Self).

Even though we had a great spring season I have to continue to find ways to help the athletes get better. I use summer break to evaluate the entire year from start to finish.  I carefully examine every aspect of training from the warm ups to the cool downs and everything in between.  I also have to look at the weight training, body weight circuits, and core training. I always try to figure out what worked well and what needs to be altered.

This is also the time to start thinking about additions I will make to the training.  I normally take my staple workouts and sprinkle in some new things.  I truly believe you cannot do the exact same workouts year after year.  Next week I am supposed to get together with Mike Ekstrand (U-Mass Lowell), Dave Cusano (Wheaton College), and Latif Thomas (Complete Track and Field) to talk track.  Even though I am off in the summer I still need to sharpen my coaching tools.  Sharing ideas and picking up information from great coaches is a fantastic way to incorporate essential training methods to your existing plan. I would love to say they I made up every workout that our sprinters do, however, that would be a lie.  A lot of what we do I acquired from great coaches.

Take some time before school starts up and reevaluate your training.  Figure out what worked and what did not work. Find some ways to spice things up for your athletes so they don’t feel confined or become inattentive with the repeated workouts. Meet up with some coaching buddies and learn from one another.  Start thinking about how you are going to deal with your athletes that pointed fingers last year.  Come up with a plan that will put all of your athletes on a path to success.

Starting in September I will continue to post workouts on my Twitter account. Feel free to follow me @MarcMangiacotti.


Marc Mangiacotti - Marc Mangiacotti enters his seventh season as an assistant coach with the Crimson for the 2018-19 school year. He oversees the men’s sprinters and hurdles for Harvard University. He is a USA Track & Field Level I and II certified coach in sprints, hurdles, relays, jumps and combined events. Mangiacotti came to Harvard after a two-year tenure at Brown University. During his time in Providence, R.I., he made a big impact on the Bears’ sprinters, coaching five Ivy League champions that combined for nine league titles. He also coached 15 athletes that earned All-Ivy League credentials and saw his group break four school records.

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