Buzby: Coaches must learn to handle different personalities, behaviors

jonbuzby@hotmail.comApril 20, 2013 

One kid is crying, another is whining that he doesn't want to play and a third is behaving poorly enough that if practice was school, he would be in the principal's office.

One of the greatest challenges every coach faces is dealing with players' different behaviors. Count the number of players on your team and that's probably the number of different personalities you have to deal with.

You will coach kids with great ability, but you will coach more with less ability. You will coach some players who love to play and others who are only there because dad makes them. You will coach kids whom you would take home in a minute while others will drive you crazy.

The bottom line: They are your kids to coach, and the better you deal with all the different behaviors and personalities, the more fun your coaching experience will be.

If you coach young children, most likely you will have at least one child who cries. It can be for a variety of reasons: He or she might be hurt, in trouble at home, or upset about something that happened at school.

Comfort the child, ask what is wrong, and give him the option of sitting out. The most important thing is to communicate with the parents. They might know exactly why he is upset or might be able to help you find out. Or maybe neither, but they need to know.

The child who "doesn't want to play today" may have a very good reason to share with you and may not. It's not the end of the world if the child sits out one night. If you try to force the child to play, it will only make him more miserable (and you and his teammates).

He may not want to tell you why he doesn't want to play or practice, and he shouldn't have to. Remember, these are kids, not professional athletes. But just like the child who cries, make sure to mention it to the parents.

The toughest personality to coach is the player who never seems to pay attention and doesn't seem to care that he's not. Many coaches are not trained to deal with kids like this. If a child is misbehaving, not listening, etc., it is a distraction to the team and must be dealt with as soon as possible.

Talking to the player, having him sit out and/or talking to the parents are all options. If none of the above works and the poor behavior continues, you might not have any other option but to dismiss him from the team. Just make sure you warn him before you actually do it. Most likely this will upset the parents and the player won't care, because if the child really wanted to play he would behave.

Remember, it's not fair to the other players and their parents to tolerate one misbehaved child. And if you do, pretty soon it will be more than one. Unlike public schools, playing sports is a privilege, not a law. You are the principal.

People coach children because they enjoy working with them. The rewards far outweigh the few negative experiences. However, there is nothing more frustrating than coaching a child with behavior "quirks." Try to get to the bottom of the situation as quickly as possible to make it easier on everyone -- most importantly the child.

Contact Jon Buzby at jonbuzby@hotmail.com and follow him @youthsportsbuzz on Twitter.

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