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How to deal with disruptive players

Protect the players with great attitudes

We have all been there. Practice has barely started and already players are out of control. Players are not listening and staring into space. We have already demonstrated the exercise. Now we have to do it again! The players with the good attitudes are ready to go, but instead they have to wait for the coach to deal with the disruptive behavior. Teach the players about expectations and that poor behavior is unacceptable. I know we can have other factors that can hinder our practice sessions like bad weather or poor fields but this article is purely on the behavior of our players.

What types of disturbances do we deal with?

  • Players being late for practice or games

The majority of our players are driven to practices by their parents so when they are late, it's not necessarily their fault. What we can teach them are manners. Every player that is late should walk up to the coach and apologize for being late. They can also say sorry to their team mates. They will gain respect for taking responsibility. If the coach does not receive an apology, the coach should call the player over and ask if they have anything to say (Guided discovery) and search for an apology. When players are late for games they should never start the game unless the player has communicated the reason for being late to the coach. The coach can now make a decision on whether or not the player should start. Obviously, if you have 10 players and your 11th player is late, you don't have to but you would likely start them.

I do remember a time when I was coaching in Virginia, USA when I was repeatedly telling parents to please get their son to the field on time. After being ignored a couple of times I remember one game I had 7 players at the start of the warm up and I started with those 7 players. I had 9 players on the bench. I played the whole first half with 7. I got my point across.

You have to show your loyal players that this type of behavior will not be tolerated, no matter the ability of the player. If you have rules / guidelines and stick to them, the players and parents will follow. We are teaching an important life lesson to the player.

  • Players are not listening or goofing around at practice sessions

Remember that you are the coach, not their “buddy.” Some people have the ability to horse around and still inspire unconditional respect from their players. Some do not. If you are in the latter category, it is important to have respect first. Be respectful, nice but be firm. Do not tolerate rude or disrespectful behavior. These disturbances can interfere with our practice objectives. Your players will see this happening. Your loyal, well behaved players will want the coach to deal with this type of behavior. Gone are the days of the players being the disciplinarians. Gone are the days of punishing the group by running or doing push ups. I have seen coach's stand with the disruptive player and punish the rest of the group. The group is running while the disruptive player watches. This creates anger towards the disruptive player from their team mates and does not solve the problem. We recommend that you just go directly to the source of the bad behavior and deal with it by removing that player from the practice session. Pull the player or players to the side and tell them you are not going to put up with disruptive behavior. I always ask them, "Let me know when you are ready to come back and give it your best?" On most occasions the player will say straight away "I'm ready", so I let them back in. If not I leave it for about 30 seconds to a minute and then go over and ask them again. They will then hopefully say yes and then I would let them back on the field. You could also not start them on game day. Just let them know that until their behavior improves at practice, they are not going to start a game. I would also let the parents know about this problem. By speaking to the parents you will be able to get an insight into the child's life. The player may not have a role model. The parents may have issues themselves. From speaking to the parents you can get a good understanding of why the player is behaving this way. We cannot give up on them straight away. We need to become the role model by using tough love but also rewarding them if their behavior does improve.

Tough love is needed but do not cross the line. Be sure to judge each situation in a new light. Some players don’t mean to be rude—they just weren’t paying attention at the time. Only consciously punish consciously rude behavior. Be aware that some medical conditions can cause children to behave in seemingly disruptive ways. Find out all you need to know about all of your players. There is usually a social issue to why your players are behaving badly.


The good kids on your team, the ones that come to practice and give 100% will want you to address the players that give 50% or the players that do not give their best efforts. These are your values. Your players give 100%. These values do not guarantee you a win but what it does is gives each player individual toughness and binds teams together as a unit. At P90 we believe in the business model of people, product and process. If you feel you have the right players and you feel you can give them the practice sessions to learn then players love to follow a process.

  • Follow a process

We know that performance follows attitude. With the right attitude, coaches, boys and girls will commit to the hard work, preparation and to the challenge of doing their team job well. They will be encouraged to come out of their comfort zone and understand that soccer is about decision making and working together as a team.

Attitude is shaped largely by:

• The personality of the player.

• The influence of parents, role models, friends.

• The practice and coaching situation we put them in.

Add these three together to get your coaching environment.

You need to establish a culture of teaching, developing, standards, discipline, care and concern. This will lead to inspiration and commitment to the pursuit of a stable soccer program.

‘The big picture’

You want to develop good players and good people. Decisions are made that are beneficial to the player and to the team. Do not succumb to the short term pressures of winning or feeding coaches or parents egos. This is not easy and it comes with many challenges. You have to be focused on the long term goal.

What you focus on are:

1. Coaching excellence, not results – Constantly teach the process. Do not get carried away with the result of the game. If you focus on results you will stop doing the correct things that help to develop a soccer player. If you focus on performance then you will always be able to work out why you won or lost. Stay in control and the players will also. Judge yourself on the progression of the players and the team not your win/loss record. Sure, we have to win for the sake of the players but this should not be your motivation.

2. Be patient – Teaching the game excellently and ignoring the score does not mean you will not win. We will win better and more often if we are patient and stick to the process.

3. Teach the parents – Parents will not buy into the process if they do not understand how it benefits their child. Sell the benefits. Seeing their child improve and seeing the enjoyment that they are having will sell the process. Keep parents up to date with what is going on. Practice / game times etc. Great communication will help you in the future.

4. Coach appropriately – The process is like a jigsaw puzzle with each and every one of us responsible for a piece of the puzzle. Be an expert on your part of the puzzle. Work out the top three priorities of the group and also work on each individual player. Inspire the players to keep on improving. Juggling and long team running exercises are excluded from practice sessions. These types of exercises can be done away from the practice field. We need to teach the game.

5. .Challenge the players to manage themselves – Players must be motivated to work on their skills and fitness away from the practice field. Hold them accountable for their actions.

6. Understand growth stages – Boys and Girls develop physically, mentally and emotionally at different rates. We have to understand this and not give up on the late developers.

7. Love the artist – Most of your players will become disciplined. They will be good at learning from your coaching sessions. You will get a few players that will create their own patterns of play. This is higher risk but a higher reward. Are you big enough to forgive them for their mistakes? As long as the player is respectful and follows the rules of becoming a team player, then every team needs an artist of some sort.

8. Trial and error – Your practice sessions are challenging. This will lead to mistakes. Dealing with mistakes is the biggest part of a player and coaches development. It’s what happens after the mistake that is important. Learn and move on.

If you are not positively affecting the behavior of your players, you cannot call yourself a coach. You have to be the inspiration. Your practice sessions have to be a place where the kids can learn the game. Your sessions need a purpose and the players need to see that your teaching methods are working. If you are improving the group then this can be used as leverage for a player who is misbehaving. They want to be involved and if they miss a game through behavior then you will hopefully see an improvement in their actions. You need to stick to the team rules and everyone will see that all the players are held accountable if they do not abide by the rules. You need to show the players that you are there to develop them. All they need to give you is 100% effort and concentration. If you are not inspiring the group and your practice sessions are boring, you will have a problem dealing with disruptive players.

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