3 Tips for Handling an Unruly Youth Athlete


There are plenty of blog posts and articles chock full of tips for youth sports coaches that need to manage unruly sports parents (we’ve even outlined a couple of ideas). But what is a coach to do when the parents aren’t the only ones acting up? How do you manage an unruly athlete and keep them from distracting the rest of the team? It doesn’t take much to lose an 8 year olds’ attention, and one disruptive player can soon distract the rest of the team and turn your practice into a free-for-all.

Here are 3 tips for dealing with an unruly youth athlete:

1. Set a precedent on day one.

Before it even becomes an issue, let your team know right off the bat what kind of behavior is and isn’t acceptable and establish the consequences for players that cross the line. Imagine it is day one of practice; you blow the whistle and tell everyone to hustle on in. Some of the kids sprint right on over, a few leisurely jog in and a couple more might not even notice. Now is the perfect opportunity to set a precedent! What are you going to do to ensure that when you say “hustle” your team knows you mean it? A couple extra sprints right then and there might get everyone’s attention! Chances are they won’t ignore your whistle the next time.

2. Call them out on their behavior.3 Tips for Handling an Unruly Youth Athlete

Kids are smart. If they think they can get away with their unruly behavior, assuming you can’t see them/won’t notice/won’t say anything then they’ll do it. Put a stop to any unacceptable behavior the moment you notice it happening. This will keep it from getting worse/impacting the rest of your team and hopefully make them less likely to pull any shenanigans in the future because they know you’ll call them out on it.

3. Take them out of the activity.

Most kids don’t want to sit on the sidelines, but if they are being disruptive to the rest of the team than it’s your prerogative as a coach to have them sit that drill/exercise out. It’s not fair that their behavior hold the rest of the team back.  (Keep in mind that this shouldn’t be your first reaction.) If their behavior gets way out of line it might be worth talking to their parents about—maybe there is something going on behind the scene that is affecting their mood and behavior.

The key to managing unruly behavior in your team is consistency. You can’t let one player get away with a behavior that another gets reprimanded for. If you have a set of rules and consequences, which everyone needs to be fully aware of, you have to stick to your guns!