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Turning Difficult Athletes into Successful Teammates: Extending Coaches' Reach to Unlock Potential

Updated: Feb 23, 2023

College coaches face various challenges when dealing with difficult players, but some of the main ones can be seen and managed through the lens of Christianity. Balancing correction, tough love, and punishment can be complex tasks. However, it is essential to remember that each situation is unique and requires an approach tailored specifically to the individual player. Some problematic behaviors include:

  1. Not taking criticism well and responding negatively to feedback or guidance from coaches.

  2. Being disruptive during practice or games, both verbally and physically.

  3. Having bad attitudes, such as complaining about playing time, etc.

  4. Failing to display good leadership qualities within the team dynamic.

  5. Poor communication skills with teammates, coaches, and staff members alike.

Because all coaches are human, they sometimes find it challenging to know how to respond "the right way."

One challenge is to respond out of love and compassion rather than anger or frustration. This can be difficult for college coaches faced with disruptive players. It requires patience, kindness, and understanding to work through conflict in a way that encourages growth and improvement rather than retribution or punishment. As Matthew 5:44 says, "But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you" (KJV).

Another challenge is maintaining an attitude of humility while providing leadership and instruction. Philippians 2:3 states, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit" (NIV) – this verse speaks volumes about how leaders should operate within teams; they need to put others first without seeking recognition or satisfaction from their position. It is important for college coaches dealing with difficult players to stay humble yet firm in their approach to avoid damaging relationships between themselves and their colleagues or athletes on the team.

"Ok, Coach Ashley--that all makes sense but what strategies should be implemented? How do you differentiate between correction, tough love, and punishment?"

Correction involves providing direction and guidance to help players learn from their mistakes without feeling shamed or judged for them. This could include teaching techniques on improving skills and addressing any issues with attitude or behavior related to sportsmanship.

Tough love involves being firm but fair when dealing with disruptive behavior – it means setting boundaries but also taking time to listen and understand why the player may have acted out in the first place. Ephesians 4:15 says, "…speaking the truth in love" (NIV). This is applicable here as it encourages us to speak truthfully and do so compassionately rather than harshly or cruelly.

Punishment should always be used sparingly if possible—it should never replace education, mentorship, or understanding of what has gone wrong; Proverbs 20:30 states, "Correct your son and he will give you comfort; he will bring delight to your soul" (NIV). Punishment should only be used as a last resort after other attempts have been made to resolve the difficulty between coach and athlete.

In sum, "Kids do not care how much you know until they know you care." This phrase emphasizes the importance of building relationships with players before expecting them to adhere to rules and instructions. College coaches should prioritize developing trust and respect with their players rather than solely focusing on achieving results. Building strong relationships between coach and player is a critical factor in effective team management. It allows the coach to understand each individual's needs better, handle issues more effectively, provide motivation for improvement, create more robust team dynamics, and increase engagement from all members.

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