Ask The Experts
Q: I am hearing from other parents that I have a child that is causing some problems on our 10-and-under basketball team, but I have not witnessed it yet. Apparently he is causing other kids to act badly and have bad attitudes. What is the best way to handle this issue since I haven't actually seen it happen?
A: To deal with this issue effectively, it all starts with having a good and trusting relationship with your players and the parents on the team.
This doesn't happen overnight – it's a long-term investment. However, I still suggest you start now because you never know when another issue like this might come up again.
I read that Bill Parcells spoke to every single member of his team before practice and before a game, every single day. There are 53 players on an NFL team! If Bill Parcells can find the time to talk to 53 players, you can find the time to talk to a dozen players on your team.
It doesn't take that much to make a connection.
I find that right before practice and during our warm up is the best time for brief conversations. You might say things like: "How's class going?", "Have any plans for winter break?", "How did your brother’s tryouts go?", or "Nice job on defense last night. Keep it up!"
Those simple acknowledgements and conversations go a long way toward building a relationship between the player and the coach.
Now back to your original question. Here's how I would deal with the issue:
Step 1 - Continue building trust with the players and parents (as explained above).
Step 2 - Get more info from the parents making accusations. Ask them when they saw this happening, what exactly the player is doing and if they’ve seen this behavior happen themselves?
Step 3 - Once you get more info, try to keep an eye on things and proceed with caution.
I say proceed with caution because it may be the accusers that are out of line and you just never know.
Ideally you will see the behavior first hand then you can talk with the player about treating others the way you want to be treated; honesty; or whatever the situation calls for.
You may need to talk with several players on the team about the issue(s), that's why it helps to have a good trusting relationship with everyone. You don't want them to feel they are in trouble – you want them to confide in you. They may reveal family problems at home and so on.
Step 4 - Last but not least, make sure you emphasize character and ethics in every practice and game. For our youth team we constantly emphasize six things: hard work, resiliency, honesty, being selfless, being grateful and kindness.
Our players know those things are really important to us. Even though players may not always show it, deep down they want to please their coaches. So by simply emphasizing those six qualities constantly, we feel that it rubs off on our players.
It's simple but extremely effective.
These situations are not easy and there is no right or wrong answer. The most important thing is to try and do what is best for each child. It’s not always easy but that's all you can do.
Jeff Haefner is the owner and content manager for Breakthrough Basketball, which has more than 200,000 subscribers. You can read more of Jeff's content about coaching and basketball by subscribing to the Breakthrough Newsletter or his visiting his personal blog.
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