If you’ve coached for any period of time, you have inevitably had to make some tough decisions. Some are painfully obvious while other seem to beg the question, such as what was my player thinking, what was their intent or did they really consider the consequences? While having clear expectations and accountability measures in place usually allow us to settle the incident or incidents expediently, it is still a part of coaching that is not enjoyable but necessary.
So what are some of the player challenges that will require your leadership?
· Missing the bus to a game
· Disqualification during a game
· Teammates not including a teammate during a game
· Missing or late to practice
· Fighting with a teammate
· Failing academically or disrupting class
· Blatantly not following instructions in a game
· Refusing to enter a game
· Influencing other teammates to disregard your instructions
As you look at these, it is pretty obvious that some fall under the same category of PLAYER ACCOUNTABILITY within your team expectations, which you hopefully formulated with the players at the beginning of the year. These typically include missing the bus or practice, fighting, and disqualification. Drugs and alcohol are usually covered in your school’s handbook.
It’s those other challenges such as refusing to enter a game, disregarding instructions, negatively influencing a teammate, freezing a teammate out during a game, that require immediate attention, and may or may not have been included in your expectations. That is not to say we need to jump to conclusions. Time may be required to see who the real problem is. It may be more than one player and the incident may not be what we think it is.
That being said, after experiencing these situations a veteran coach usually sees it for what it is and knows with almost certainty who is guilty. So what is the solution or what now?
Here are some steps you may consider:
Avoid, if possible, confronting the player or players in front of the team. The time allows you to calm down.
Bring the player or players into your office the next day. Always include an assistant coach or athletic director in the meeting.
Explain your view of the situation and then be quiet. Let them respond. When they finish, assuming you were correct in your assessment, be adamant that you and the team cannot tolerate this behavior.
At this point you have to decide if punishment is called for. If rules have been broken, never waiver. Hold them accountable.
If punishment is warranted make sure to let the parents know.
Never be swayed by an immediate apology. This simply may be a defense mechanism that worked many times for this player or players.
Never consider the big game coming up or how the absence of this player will be felt when making a decision. If you delay punishment until the big game is over you’ll lose any respect you had with your team.
Let the player or players know that a second offense will involve the possibility of dismissal from the team.
Only you know the best avenue to handle a situation with your team. However, the choices will always be to look the other way, see it with rose colored glasses or step up and hold your player or players accountable. When we don’t hold them accountable we set a standard of weak leadership and inability to make tough decisions. If this continues throughout the season your team will end up in chaos.
For your words to have meaning throughout the season, your actions have to say, “This is what our team stands for, and anything else will not be tolerated.”
By doing that you’ll free your players up to do what they do best, play the game.
I wish you and your team the best! Keep inspiring!