Ask The Experts
Q: I coach a youth volleyball team for 12-year-olds. One of my players is very talented – and she knows it. She can be very condescending to her own teammates. How can I address her attitude while avoiding creating a rift among my players and affecting team cohesion?
A: It is critical that coaches teach their athletes the importance of good character. The type of character befitting a champion athlete reflects sportsmanship, humbleness, integrity and leadership, not to mention dedication, commitment and discipline. By taking the focus off of this one individual athlete who is showing poor behavior and refocusing on the group as a whole, you will allow the entire team to grow together.
I have seen coaches who demand as much good character from their athletes as they do physical performance, and the result of this is not only a cohesive team, but a group of strong individuals who feel good about themselves before they even hit the playing field. There are several ways to do this.
Start with a group discussion pointing out examples of good character in team members. This gives focus to the positive and takes energy away from the negative behavior. Next, provide leadership opportunities, possibly for the player who has been showing poor behavior, to enable team members to receive praise for actions that reflect good character. This may be as simple as providing opportunities to assist younger players, helping a team member with a recovering injury to practice a skill, or doing community service together as a team. Make sure that all team members recognize that you highly value and support this behavior.
Basically, taking your energy away from the difficult team member and giving attention to the acts that support the behavior you want should change things in your team dynamic.
Julie Learner is a Performance Coach, working with athletes, primarily figure skaters, who live and compete all over the world. She holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan, as well as a Masters in Teaching from National-Louis University in Evanston, Ill., and a Masters in Social Work from Loyola University in Chicago. Learn more at www.julielearner.com.
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