Sports Coaching: 5 Strategies for Dealing with Bad Attitudes

Ugh… the player with a bad attitude. It sounds like a serious sports cliché, but it’s true – they are like a cancer in the locker room, on the practice filed/ court and in a game. They can make things difficult for all of the athletes on the team with their constant problematic behavior.

But, believe it or not it is possible to put stop to it – or at least curb it by laying down a few ground rules to begin with. And it doesn’t hurt to get the player’s parents involved with this as well. It takes a lot of energy to deal with players that have poor attitudes, but they can be turned around, and the impact they have on the rest of the team can be significantly lessened.

Here are a few tools for dealing with problem athletes:

oLay the ground rules for players and parents – This is the first thing I would tell any coach – especially if they are running a community team as opposed to a school team. I’d even do it if it were a school team I was coaching. Plan a parent’s meeting and expect everyone to be there.

At this meeting you will explain to parents and players the conduct that is expected of players and the way they are to carry themselves on the practice field and when you play games. This is very Coach Carter, but it is preached in many current athletic club guidelines – coaches need to take control of the team immediately.

It is important to lay the foundation for: behavior, expectations, practices, games, and the role of the parents.

oDeal with the player as an equal – If you try to act condescending, or worse yet, call out a player in front of their peers, you might not get the response you want. Talk to the player behind closed doors and get them to take an active role in their team. Don’t talk down to them.

oTalk to team leaders – If you approach team leaders, they may be able to persuade or have an effect on the behavior of the player(s) with attitude problems. Peer pressure is often the best pressure to put on people.

oGive the player responsibility – Take advantage of the player’s influence and turn it into a positive. Get them involved with a major part of the team to try and generate positive interest in what the team is doing. You might be surprised with what they come up with.

oStay calm – Part of the attitude is to generate a response. Don’t let the player see that you are affected by what they are doing.