It seems that every time I have a conversation with a coach who complains that some of his players have bad attitudes, I quickly start getting a sense that the coach not only isn't doing anything to make things better, but may be contributing to the problem in the first place. It is often easy for an outsider to spot the bad body language that infects so many player/coach relationships, but goes unchallenged and unaddressed because of the power that a coach has over playing time. If this doesn't make sense to you, start watching the coaches at games, and pay close attention to their body language and interaction with their players. See which team ends up winning. The coach who interacted with their athletes least, and displayed the better body language, probably came out on top.
The list of ways a coach's actions can create bad attitudes in his players is way too long for one article, but here are just two examples to show how they can negatively affect an entire team's psyche and spiral out of control. The first is when a coach tells players one thing, but does another. When a coach's words aren't backed up by their actions, they soon lose the trust and respect of their players. In other words, as someone once said, the players are saying, "Your actions speak so loud that I can't hear your words." If a coach tells a kid he is going to play 7 minutes or seven plays in a competition, he better do just that. If he doesn't, he just bought himself a bad attitude. Worse, the kid's bad attitude that the coach created ends up giving the coach a little bit of an attitude in reaction to the bad body language the kid is displaying. Unless the problem is quickly corrected, the coach has created an uncomfortable environment for the entire team.
The second is when a coach doesn't respect all of his players equally, letting some athletes get away with poor behavior or selfish play, while holding others to a higher standard and a different set of expectations, or giving too much praise to some athletes but not to the rest of team. The result, more often than not, is that a division is created between the favored players and the rest of the team that results in the entire team having a bad attitude.
One way to correct bad attitudes on a team is to give athletes and their parents a chance to express their concerns or air grievances anonymously during the season through a mid-season evaluation form. The process will only work, however, if the coach is willing to actually take what the evaluations say to heart and not let his or her own feelings get in the way of taking steps to correct the problems the parents and players identify. If a coach offers this form of one-way communication to athletes and parents, it will allow him to have a much better understanding of what he needs to work on to become a better and more effective coach. If you don't focus solely on teaching life lessons and think more in terms of learning them, such evaluations can dramatically help your team's attitude problems. I have always adopted an open door policy for parents and athletes to express grievances, but I'm going to implement this mid season format for myself and other leagues next year, and I believe the results will be really dramatic.
What have you found helpful in correcting bad attitudes among and between coaches, players and parents? Share your ideas.