January 3, 2014
Emotional Playing-Time Decisions – Be Wise in How you Communicate
One mistake I made on a team I coached was how I handled a highly emotional situation. One of our players made it very obvious he really wanted to play a certain position. After evaluating the players, our coaching staff determined the line-up that made the most sense for the team. This player was not initially going to start at the position he wanted. Not getting to play the position you want or think you deserve is something that happens all of the time in sports, but the wise coaches deal with it in a way that can help diffuse the situation. I was not wise with this young man.
I showed up for practice, called our team together, and announced all the positions in front of the whole team. This boy was very upset and it was very visible.
I could have saved that player a lot of embarrassment, and the team a very awkward situation, if I had handled it differently.
What I should have done was pull this player aside before practice and had a one-on-one discussion. There is no point in embarrassing him in front of the whole team with a surprise. This would also allow me to explain to him that he was going to get a chance to play that position, he just wasn’t going to start the first game there. It would also have allowed for him to express any disagreement or concerns with the decision in a much more comfortable setting. Communicating with more sensitivity would have greatly diffused what turned into a pretty ugly situation.
Building up the self-esteem of these young boys and girls is the most important aspect of youth coaching, and this requires wisdom. Having wisdom in the area of communication with players means taking into consideration the right way of presenting disappointing news, and utilizing this as a teaching moment.