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3 Tips on How to Handle Team Rule Violations

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One of the biggest frustrations coaches are experiencing today is centered on the perception that many young athletes (and even older ones if you watch ESPN) just aren't as responsible or accountable as they were years ago.

Some kids have gone through much of their lives doing what they want to do and when they want to do it and naturally have trouble conforming to team rules and regulations. Therefore, in a seemingly never ending quest to teach discipline and responsibility coaches are often faced with the unpleasant task of applying specific consequences when their players violate certain team rules.

Here are 3 ideas for you to consider when it comes time to enforce the consequences.

1. Be objective driven

Ask yourself why do you want to apply consequences when there is a rule violation? Hopefully you answered something along the lines of helping your athlete become more responsible while maintaining the culture and standards of your team and to set a precedent that would discourage further violations.

If your first thought was because the kid has been driving you crazy and you want to make his life miserable in return you might not be approaching the situation correctly.

Once you determine exactly what you want to accomplish by punishing the athlete, the next step is to find the most fair and equitable solution possible. Remember that the punishment should "fit the crime" and not be extraordinarily over the top. Also remember that being fair to everyone does not always mean treating everyone exactly the same.

2. Plan in advance when possible but don't rush to judgment

We have a couple violation/consequence combinations that we feel are serious enough to be set in stone with absolutely no flexibility whatsoever. Everything else, however, is handled on a case by case basis depending on the athlete and the situation.

For example, a player who has been a model citizen for four years is going to be treated a little differently if he is finally five minutes late for practice one time than is the player who is late three or four times a week.

Remember that there is no "rule" that says a violation of team rules has to be dealt with immediately. If you're not sure about an appropriate punishment then just tell the athlete involved that you need a day or two to think about it and will take care of the matter when you are sure what to do - most of the time it's better to be right than fast.

3. Punish with Your Head not your Heart

This goes hand in hand with only having rules and consequences that you and your whole team can live with and make work. I know a coach who had an ironclad rule that if you were late to a pregame meeting you would not play in that night's game.

At the end of one season they had a home playoff game and his best player was in a fender bender that wasn't even his fault on the way to the gym and was five minutes late. Feeling backed into a corner the coach didn't let his star player get off the bench and his team lost.

What lesson did that teach his team - don't let anyone run a stop sign and hit your car? Was that being fair to the seniors who would never have another chance of being in a playoff game? How much better would it have been for everyone in the program if that coach had exercised a little common sense instead of reacting emotionally?

Bobby Knight used to say that he had only one team rule which was "Don't do anything that I don't like and if you do it will be dealt with appropriately." It was simple but extremely effective as his teams were known to be some of the most disciplined in the country.

By all means have team rules and let your team know there will be consequences for anyone who violates them. But if you are objective driven, plan ahead for probable and potential scenarios, and punish with your head your job may not be any easier but it will go smoother.

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