WOW… what a topic… If there is a more “delicate” topic amongst coaches or parents, I don’t know one. There are so many factors that need to be brought into play here and NONE of them can be ignored. As you read you may recognize a situation you personally faced or someone else has.
Before we get into specifics…. one thing ALWAYS takes PRECEDENCE…… what is best for the child (or children)? As a Coach, you are dealing with young athletes. They are not adults and don’t have the wealth of life experiences to enable them to really deal with major disappointments or the true reality of “winners and losers” in life. If the welfare of your kids is not foremost in your mind…perhaps you need to re-think your role or involvement in coaching. They must always be more important than you are!
You can’t ignore the situations…they need to be dealt with. What requires more thought is HOW to deal with the issues? Do some of these questions or situations sound familiar?
A Player just is not getting along with another player or players. You tried to deal with what you think are the problems between them but no success. What now….a team needs to be unified…drop one player for the sake of others? Drop off the team yourself?
A Parent is becoming a bit too much to handle and affects the play of all the players. You have raised the matter in a parental meeting but the situation has persisted. What now…drop the team so you get rid of the parent? Have a split amongst the parents and team?
What if a Player does not fit in a certain position on a COMPETITIVE and SKILLED team? How do we drop a player to be able to recruit someone else for the position? Are your players such an age that they really are at that level? 19 and 20 years…ok but do 14 and 15 year olds fit into this category? Are you recruiting a player away from another coach’s team without his/her knowledge? Must be ok since all the pro teams do it.
Is there EVER a correct time to drop a player? (Or a whole team?) Two weeks before playdowns? Immediately after? At the end of the season only?
Are there any “special” reasons which make you do it so you feel “justified in leaving or dropping a player? Hey I am the Coach so it is my way or else! They talked back.
Is there EVER a “Nice” way to do it? Should I be blunt or beat around the bush?
Should the parents EVER be involved? If so, exactly when? All of them?
Should parents have ANY say in the matter? All of them or just one or two?
Should parents hear first or after you have talked to the player(s)? Does warning them make them feel any better that their child is now viewed as a “failure” to be on the team?
Does LOYALTY come into play? Should teams stay together after they have been knocked out of the playdown route? Can you really drop the team in the middle of the year? What about the remaining league games or the other planned bonspiels? Did you all agree to stay for the whole year or could anyone drop out anytime to join another team?
Are there simple answers? Bluntly NO! Yet there is no sense pretending the situations don’t exist. They have and will again,. So learn how to deal with them. Every situation is different yet there are many similarities so perhaps some simple pieces of advice can get you thinking a bit more. This may help you deal more EFFECTIVELY and FAIRLY with the situation and the players.
The following basic tips may help you plan your thoughts and prepare yourself to deal with the situations. As a Coach you want the players to prepare really well for their tasks ahead. Do the same yourself since this task may be more important to your young athlete than any matches they will ever play in.
BASIC TIPS TO DEAL WITH THE BAD SITUATIONS
TIP # 1. TAKE YOUR TIME. Never rush into it. Take the time to discuss the matter with others first. Experienced coaches may be invaluable to you. To go off into the minefield without seeking advice is at your own peril.
TIP # 2. NEVER BLURT THINGS OUT. Decisions should NEVER be taken in the “heat” of the moment. If you have just lost out on a major competition, now is NOT the time to discuss changes to the team! Don’t spout off something to another coach, a parent, a friend or even a spouse! “Just between you and I” scenarios usually backfire.
TIP # 3. PLAN WHAT YOU ARE GOING TO SAY. Be sure you have the correct words ready. Write them out on cue cards if need be. Think about how much information you need to “justify” your cutting of the player. Will they really understand the reasons?
TIP # 4. THINK ABOUT WHERE TO HOLD THIS MEETING. Does not the issue deserve privacy? A crowded viewing area is not a good location. Nor is a Burger joint? Choose carefully.
TIP # 5. HOW YOU SAY THINGS CAN BE AS IMPORTANT AS WHAT YOU SAY. Diplomacy……Tact……Niceness…… Bluntness …….Honesty or Cruel Honesty ….. are just a few of the things that need to be examined. The “Golden Rule” is not a joke! Think about it when speaking. This may prove to be the most important aspect of your planning.
TIP #6. THINK ABOUT THE MESSAGE YOU ARE SENDING. Will a 14 year old really understand that they have just not demonstrated the skills necessary to play lead on the team (because their draw weight has been lousy all along)? They are 14! Are you beating around the bush and really not telling them that they are not liked by the other three players so they really have failed the personality contest? Are you just not being honest and saying that the player and you have a personality clash but you have ignored it all along and getting rid of the player lets you ignore and discussion to try and clear up the irritants!
THE OLD RULE – “ENGAGE BRAIN BEFORE MOUTH”. Funny how it makes more sense now!!