By Shawn Lealos

Good coaches foster within their kids a love of the game and instills a sense of camaraderie and teamwork among the kids they coach. Introducing those values should always be considered more important than wins and losses. However, that can be difficult when dealing with a rebellious child on the team. Youth sports coaches are almost always volunteers, and are not usually trained in youth leadership. That makes dealing with possible problem children more difficult.

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Here are some ways a little league coach can deal with a rebellious child before that player’s actions begin to have a negative effect on the entire team.

Talk to the Parents

The first, and most important, step in dealing with a rebellious child on a little league team is to reach out to the parents of that child. This step does come with a caveat: There is always a chance that a child is difficult because he learned it from his parents. This means that when a coach speaks to the parents, he or she needs to do it in a way that is not confrontational. A coach needs to determine if the child’s behavior is truly a problem with the child, or if there are other underlying issues.

Rebellion in a child might have to do with other issues, such as ADHD or anxiety. It is extremely important for a coach to understand if the child is purposely being rebellious, or if there is more going on — it may just be that this particular child needs some specialized coaching.

ADHD and Anxiety Issues

There are children who love to play sports but issues with ADHD, depression, anxiety, and more may cause them to seem rebellious as a result. When a child suffers from ADHD, that can manifest itself in almost endless energy but it can also make those children forget that they are playing as part of a team.

The first thing the coach needs to do is figure out from the parents if this is the problem. Former life skills teacher Colleen Russo pointed out that there is “no better advocate for a child with ADD or other neurological disorder – or for any child – than the parent.” The most important thing a coach can do is team up with the parents and become more hands-on at practice and in games with the child rather than pushing them away.

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When a coach points out what the child is doing right, it will help keep their anxiety levels low and their depression in check. It is also extremely important to let the child know that losing is okay and it happens to everyone as well as making sure that the child deals with winning in a respectful manner.

Possibly the most important step is to not single out the child in front of other children when they do something wrong and to deal with it one-on-one, or in some cases, with the parents present. In team sports, children who learn to trust themselves will become better teammates over time.

True Rebellion Issues

Some children will be rebellious against the coaches and possibly even with other teammates. It is extremely important for the coaches to act quickly if this attitude turns out to be purposeful. If the parents are understanding, ask them if you can take action when their children start to disrupt the team. Once receiving their permission, if a child starts to become too much to handle at a time, pull them from the game and let them cool off on the bench.

Remember, winning and losing is not what is important in youth sports. This is where kids learn to love the sport and learn how to be great teammates. To be the best teammate, a child must understand there are limits to acting out and there are repercussions for poor behavior. However, as mentioned before, do not single them out in front of other kids. Keep your voice low and stern and make it a one-on-one conversation.

The Last Resort

There is always the chance that either the players don’t want to improve or that the parents don’t have a problem with their children acting out. In these cases, the last resort should be for the coaches to step in and act on it. The first thing a coach should do is reach out to the league coordinator. There might be the chance that the child is just not compatible with the coach.

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With the league coordinator present for the meeting, suggest to the parents that it might benefit their children if they move to a different team within the league. Never start an argument with the parents because that will never end positively. Make it clear that the most important person here is their child and that you want what is best for him or her. The first thing a coach should do is try to help the child learn to love and play the game, but there are cases where it might be better for the child to move on.