What Can We Do?First, if you have a player that you're having trouble with, talk to his parents. Explain the problem and ask for their advise. Be careful not to label a player when talking to parents. Instead approach them for ideas on why they think the problems may be occurring. Hopefully you will get the information you need to help you work with this player. You can also go over your discipline plan and make sure that they are in agreement with it. What you don't want is to have to discipline the player and then immediately have the parents complain about it. You're goal here is to work with the parents to help the child be able to be a productive part of a team. If they feel you are trying to help their child and not simply singling him out for punishment, it will go a long way towards having this be a positive outcome for everyone involved.
Second, make sure you set up a discipline plan that you can use and provides the appropriate discipline regardless of who the player is.
Have a Discipline Plan In Place
For the teams I coach the discipline model is very simple. If you disrupt practice or cause problems that are detrimental to the team, then you will be sitting down and not participating for a few minutes. I have read a few articles that suggest a minute per year as a guide. This may work for parents who have a couple of kids to deal with but it doesn't work for me out on the field. With younger kids I have shorter times for the drills or activities we are working on and as kids get older those times increase. So for me, I simply have the player sit out until we are done with the current practice item, and then come back and join the team when we switch to the next activity.
ADHD and Other Issues
I recently read a WebMD article "Disciplining a Child With ADHD" and I recommend reading it as you will undoubtedly deal with a player with ADD or ADHD over the years. I think the article is a good read in general for thinking about your discipline plan and more importantly how you deal with kids that are causing problems during practice. One of the main things I got out of the article was the need for patience. If you have a player that has ADHD and can't remember what you told him 5 seconds ago during a team meeting, don't take it personally and don't get mad at the player for not listening. Simply give the instructions again and again in a few minutes if you need to. So, you're behavioral expectations for this player should be the same as all players on the team, but you will need to have a little flexibility in knowing that you will simply need to provide more instruction to this player than you may need to give some of your other players. If you know that going in then you should be able to handle it without getting upset.
My Season Is Already Underway
IT'S NEVER TOO LATE TO INSTITUTE A DISCIPLINE POLICY! If you are having issues, don't think "I just need to get through this season, and then I won't have to deal with it anymore." To me that is a failed effort on the coaches part if you get to that point. I'm a big believer that you as a coach need to be able to enjoy the experience of coaching this team as much as the players need to enjoy playing on the team. The reason I believe so strongly in that is I think it simply will make you a better coach and provide a better environment for the entire team if you are having fun and enjoying the experience.
So if you are having an issue, do something about it now. Talk with parents, send out an email or have a mid-season parent meeting explaining the issue and you're plan of action. Don't point fingers at any one player but put a plan in place and make sure you can follow through with it and that you have buy-in from the parents. It won't take long before you have everything going smoothly and as a result I think you'll find that the season will be much more enjoyable for everyone including yourself!
Until next time,