Coach Communication (Part 3)

By Craig Sigl

You can read Parts One and Two here.

7) Be on the lookout for and take leadership in resolving player conflicts. Getting in the middle of and/or acting as the referee for 2 or more players’ personality conflicts is probably the last thing a youth sports coach wants to do. I get that and I sympathize with you for when you are faced with it.

Competition for playing time, jealousies, bullying, insecurities, back-stabbing, gossiping, bringing conflicts from home to sport, etc. You name it, if you coach long enough, you WILL see all of this and more…and it’s not fun for a coach to deal with, but you have to.

You need to understand this: You are only hurting yourself if you brush it off, ignore it, or otherwise minimize it without dealing with it head on. Before I go on about this point, make another conscious decision that it is in YOUR best interests (as well as the kids, of course) to make this an important piece of your coaching protocol.

Decide that you are going to do whatever it takes to eliminate team internal strife because it makes your life worse and, of course, hurts the team’s performance and their ability to take in your brilliance!

For starters, the best medicine for this is prevention. A strong statement about what you will NOT tolerate on your team and the consequences to those that violate that will go a long way toward preventing it. You also need to periodically remind them and confront any inkling of an issue head on and swiftly when you FIRST hear rumblings of any conflicts.

Bottom line? Nip everything in the bud BEFORE it can fester and grow bigger.

Make sure that everyone knows that not everybody on a team needs to like each other personally in order to play well as a team. Adults know this, kids do not. Sports is the perfect place for them to learn this valuable life lesson. How many times in these kids’ future are they going to have to work with someone that they don’t personally like, on a project in the real world, right?

Let them know that they can put aside their differences when they show up to practice or game and just get to work when it’s time regardless of what they feel about the others, or even you! Believe me, this is a novel concept to kids and well worth you communicating it regularly.

8) Manage and keep the “superstar” mentality in check These days, with our technology and the opportunity for just about anyone to become famous through the internet, achieving self-importance seems to be a growing goal among this selfie generation.

While some of this has always been a part of sports, showboating, trash talking and unsportsmanlike behavior will hurt a team’s performance when taken too far, which many coaches have told me is worse than it’s ever been, making it another priority for coach communication.

When too many players are all trying to grab the spotlight and hog the glory at every chance, then other players shrink away from giving their best thinking something like: “whats the use, they never return the favor.”

In addition, these supporting players certainly aren’t interested in fueling the bravado and, at worst, sometimes it can turn into active conflicts (see #7 above).

Again, don’t put your head in the sand about this issue either. The danger is that this is sometimes very subtle, hard to detect, and the players themselves may not even admit to the problem. But do not fool yourself that it is not affecting your overall team’s performance, it is and you need to keep your radar on high sensitivity to identify it.

On the other side of the coin, sometimes, this subtle jealousy shows up directed at players who are simply very good and continually make great plays from their talent and skill even if they don’t flaunt it or seek the spotlight. This is very common in girls sports and can turn into “fear of success” for the talented player. This unconsciously causes the girl to throttle down performance for fear of being shunned or gossiped about.

You can manage this by balancing out your praise and giving plenty of it to the lessor players when they exhibit successful team behaviors such as great passes, assists, cheerleading from the bench, etc.

You minimize the issue by constantly emphasizing skill development and effort and not going overboard in celebrating and praising performance.

Coach, you get more of what you promote. If you promote (by praising) the big scores and the flashy moves, you will get more of that. If you promote skill execution, you will get more of that…simple logic.

For the out of control glory hogs, you just need to make a calculated decision that pulling them out of the game because of these team-destroying behaviors is worth it in the long run. Don’t be afraid to use that weapon even if the wrath of some parents may come down on you later.

Coach, one play, one game does not a season make. Think long term and keep your own ego in check and you will be more effective towards getting maximum performance out of your players which makes everyone happy….win or lose.

Craig Sigl’s work with youth athletes has been featured on NBC TV and ESPN. Get his free ebook: “The 10 Commandments For a Great Sports Parent” and also a free training and .mp3 guided visualization to help young athletes perform under pressure by visiting: http://MentalToughnessTrainer.com

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