Coaching a very talented athlete can be a great deal of fun. That athlete usually attracts a lot of attention as a result of their performance on the field, but be careful not to allow your player to use their athletic status as an excuse to behave out of control. If this individual is already exhibiting character issues in and out of competition, you need to get a handle on the situation before it is too late.
How do you handle your best athlete getting into trouble outside of the sport? It's not an easy task, and outside influences can make a challenging job increasingly frustrating.
Remind the athlete that no one is above the team, even if they are one of the primary keys to winning.
Set clear rules and consequences and be consistent if discipline is necessary. For instance, if being late to practice means that the athlete owes 500 yards then make sure the athlete runs the 500 yards when it is appropriate. Allowing them to get away with the bad behavior sends a negative reinforcement to the player and the team as a whole.
The best way to avoid this situation is to be clear and firm up front. Preach to your athletes that there is no "I" in team and that no individual comes before the group. Once your players buy in to this philosophy, you'll rarely have an issue concerning how you discipline your athletes.
Regardless of how well you plan when dealing with these issues, sometimes you have to make an example out of an athlete. Sitting a key performer for part of a game or the entire competition can be difference between winning and losing.
You have to figure out a way to show the athlete that certain behavior will not be rewarded and that there are consequences for all of our actions in the real world.
I don't suggest purposefully putting your team at risk of losing because of an athlete. The rest of your team may see this as putting one athlete before the team as well.
Unfortunately, there is no set manner in which one can handle these situations. And keep in mind that the hard work is done up front before the season starts. If need be, have the athletes sign a behavior contract that outlines expectations and consequences so that parents and players are aware of your program ideology. As a coach, always be consistent and fair, and remember that your standards must be met by all players without exception. Keep in mind also that your role as a coach extends far beyond the field. Winning is not everything if you are not helping your athletes become better individuals.
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