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Johnp2

My Best Player Does Not Want To Practice

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I probably should not be airing this, but I'm confident that other coaches might have experienced (or will experience) this.

I also apologize in advance for the lengthy post.

I mentioned a while back there is a certain player whom I've coached every season/sport I've ever coached. A GREAT kid with a tremendous family. As a bonus, he's always been the best athlete for his age I've ever seen. He just turned 8 years old. He plays a lot of sports, but I am "his coach."

Right before our last practice his mom came out on the field and said she was having a problem with "Tony" (not his real name). She said he was in the car and did not want to practice. This REALLY took me back. Tony has attended probably close to 100 practices with me and has always had an incredible attitude for it. In fact, he is typically one of the players who let out an "awe!" when I announce practice is over.

Now understand this player is ALWAYS the "stud" on his team---regardless of the sport (football, soccer, baseball, etc.). His mom told me he was telling her that he's a good player, knows his plays, and does not need to practice. She asked me to talk with him. By this point, practice was just starting---so I had my assistant take over.

I went to his car, he looked at me with tears in his eyes, and I bluntly asked him, "You don't want to play football Tony?" He said he indeed wants to play, but doesn't think he needs to practice. At this point I was rolling my eyes at the situation, and I told him straight up---"You know how I roll, I won't play you if you don't practice. The choice is yours." And I began walking off. He got out and said, "okay", and actually had himself a good practice like he always does. I told him we would talk in detail later, but did not get a chance to after practice.

I felt like we left a problem on the table. Consequently, after our next practice I am taking Tony and my son out for a snow cone and we will have an open discussion about practice. My son has a stellar attitude toward practice, but it won't hurt him to hear one of my long-winded speeches on the subject again--plus he is just happy to get a snow cone. ;-)

I think there are a few things in play here:

1. Tony plays a lot of sports. He is at practice most nights during the season, year round. I can see how it is getting old for him.

2. Tony is beginning to figure out he is a special athlete. I think he's simply trying to flex his muscles some and call his own shots.

3. Tony knows me well--as I do him. He knows that I do not have prima donnas on my teams. He also knows how important I feel practice is.

My approach is to let him know I don't care how good of an athlete he is, if he doesn't practice he's off the team. It's that simple. I believe in being up front with the players. I'm confident he will agree to practice. However, that is not my goal. I want him to buy into why athletes need to practice. I'm going to explain that while he might be good now, if he ends up on a team that allows him not to practice, before he knows it other kids will become skilled and he will no longer be the best.

Yes--I do make practice fun. But all players will get to the point sometime in their "career" where they start disliking practice. I can understand he is young and testing the waters. I've always told him (as I do all my players), I am coaching them for their future endeavors in sports. Tony will have to make a decision if he wants to be the best athlete he can be. If he doesn't, that is fine--but he will need to look me in the eye and tell me that.

Am I missing anything here? I'm curious as to if any of you would handle it differently. As mentioned, this is one of "my guys". If I had a new player who did not want to practice--I would just leave it to the parents to deal with it. However, due to the fact I am very close with this kid and his family, his mom is leaning on me to talk some sense into him.

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Coaching Youth Fooball - Football Plays

I think you're right on track John. If it was me, I'd probably ask him who his favorite college or professional athlete is, and ask him how much he thinks that guy practices. Then point out that he has special talent, and if he wants to try and be "that good" then he needs to give every practice as much effort as those "sports idols" do.

Good Luck. I hope you get it worked out.

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Sounds like he's burned out. Practice every night of the season? It's becoming like work for him, the kid needs some downtime to just chill and be a kid. Instead of talking sense into him, talk sense into his parents. One sport per season is my rule. I had kids who were playing basketball and football at the same time. One kid was even playing soccer, basketball and football at the same time. If I caught them, especially the last one at the wrong time (when games or practices of various sports were stacked together) they were shadows of themselves attension-wise and energy-wise. It wasn't fair to the kids and it wasn't fair to the team. It's just a classic case of overprogramming with Tony. Give him two or three days off per week and he'll be good as new.

How old is he, 8? 9?

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Sounds like he's burned out. Practice every night of the season? It's becoming like work for him, the kid needs some downtime to just chill and be a kid. Instead of talking sense into him, talk sense into his parents. How old is he, 8? 9?
My sentiments exactly. Especially for a kid who just turned 8!?! Obviously, you aren't his father so you don't want to overstep your boundries, but I agree with Orange here. Not sure what else he's involved with besides your team, but he might need to pull back a bit on the sports scene. How many practices is he hitting with you each week and how long are they?

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I was thinking he might have some legos at home or perhaps a Wii that he wants to get to play. I highly doubt an 8 year old is a prima donna, that's probably just talking, trying to make an excuse because he is burned out.

I ran into this last summer with my son. Understand the background, we do not let him play more than one sport at a time. There is an occasional overlap of sports by a week or two as one season ends and another begins. My son is super sports kid and he loves to play anything where he runs, jumps, catches etc. He seemingly lives for it and we try to make sure he doesn't get burned out and plays a lot of different things. We rolled from flag football last winter into baseball which overlapped a little. My football was one practice a week and one game a week. Baseball is a little more intense with 2 games a week and 1-2 practices. We had reached the end of the baseball season and one of my friends approached me about getting my son on his summer basketball team. This guy is a great coach and I thought it was a very good opportunity for him. My son is not afraid to speak his mind and he's in touch with his feelings so he told me straight up no, he was tired of playing sports and wanted a break. Frankly I was shocked. My kid NOT wanting to play a sport? He said he would rather hang out at the house and play for the first part of summer and maybe play basketball later. It's kind of funny how I was the one who initially had a problem with it, but my son was telling me he was burned out. He took about a month off, did a couple of day summer camps and then finished the summer with another basketball team.

The point of my story is that kids do need a break and I was lucky enough that my son was straight up with me. Sounds like this kid is burned out too but doesn't know how to express himself.

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I was thinking he might have some legos at home or perhaps a Wii that he wants to get to play. I highly doubt an 8 year old is a prima donna, that's probably just talking, trying to make an excuse because he is burned out.

I ran into this last summer with my son. Understand the background, we do not let him play more than one sport at a time. There is an occasional overlap of sports by a week or two as one season ends and another begins. My son is super sports kid and he loves to play anything where he runs, jumps, catches etc. He seemingly lives for it and we try to make sure he doesn't get burned out and plays a lot of different things. We rolled from flag football last winter into baseball which overlapped a little. My football was one practice a week and one game a week. Baseball is a little more intense with 2 games a week and 1-2 practices. We had reached the end of the baseball season and one of my friends approached me about getting my son on his summer basketball team. This guy is a great coach and I thought it was a very good opportunity for him. My son is not afraid to speak his mind and he's in touch with his feelings so he told me straight up no, he was tired of playing sports and wanted a break. Frankly I was shocked. My kid NOT wanting to play a sport? He said he would rather hang out at the house and play for the first part of summer and maybe play basketball later. It's kind of funny how I was the one who initially had a problem with it, but my son was telling me he was burned out. He took about a month off, did a couple of day summer camps and then finished the summer with another basketball team.

The point of my story is that kids do need a break and I was lucky enough that my son was straight up with me. Sounds like this kid is burned out too but doesn't know how to express himself.

Great post..... I think you hit it here!!

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Instead of talking sense into him, talk sense into his parents.

Hmmm. With all due respect, I don't feel that is the proper way to handle the situation. If I did not know the family, that is one thing. Recall last season where I had a player who did not want to play, but his parents all but forced him---until I had to bluntly tell them he is becoming a liability. However, I know this family quite well, and I don't believe I need to "talk sense into" them. In re-reading my post, I can see how it's easy to think, "Oh, well he's just practicing too much---there's your problem." I see this as a possible factor, but I'm not sold yet this is the crux of the matter. This, based on his comments. I almost equate it to a child who does not want to study for a test because he feels he does not need to.

One sport per season is my rule.

This is my rule---with my child. However, I don't enforce this rule on other players on my teams. I encourage it---and stress that football should be priority---but it is not a "rule" with my players.

How old is he, 8? 9?

He just turned 8.

As I stated, he is a good kid with a great family. I don't feel they are the type of people who would impose their will by forcing him to engage in activities he does not want. I also think he is quick to tell his parents if he feels burned out---and they would listen, or pick up on it if that were the sole reason. Anyway, we'll get to the bottom of it tonight. If he tells me he's burned out and does not want to practice, then that is that. He knows no one will force him to play. However, if he wants to be on a football team---and he wants to play in games---then with that comes attending practice. I want him to WANT to come to practice, and I think Texas D was thinking along the sames line as I with respect to emphasizing the importance of practicing. I'm "hoping" he just needs a friendly reminder as to why it is we practice (kids at this age can forget why, believe it or not). I'm afraid if I just chalk it up to "He's simply over committed", I would not be doing my due dilligence here.

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I guess the thing that makes me think that he is burned out is when you said:

"Tony plays a lot of sports. He is at practice most nights during the season, year round."

Maybe I read into that statement but to me that means he's playing multiple sports at once and has a practice almost every night of the year. Am I correct? I think you said you practice 2-3 times a week, so he must be playing something else right now and consistently plays two or more sports at once. Is that right?

Obviously you know this kid and we don't but we've all been around lots of kids playing sports. I really find it hard to believe that an 8 year old would actually think he's too good to practice. I think there is more to the story.

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Ha! Well, "Tony" had another great practice tonight. My son and he were still restless and wanted to work on some timing of plays at the snow cone stand, so they ended up performing an ad hoc post-practice session--much to the entertainment of the families sitting around us. :-)

He's good. I'm not going into details, but I will say one of the cool things about being an adult is that you can remember what it was like being a kid, and kids are not the smartest humans on earth---yet at the same time they are.

I'm not going to get into a pissing match with you, here, Orange. I took exception to your statement that I should "talk some sense into" his parents, when I firmly believe that is the last thing that needed to happen here. This was my fault for airing this out and asking for opinions. Lesson learned.

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He's good. I'm not going into details, but I will say one of the cool things about being an adult is that you can remember what it was like being a kid, and kids are not the smartest humans on earth---yet at the same time they are. I'm not going to get into a pissing match with you, here, Orange. I took exception to your statement that I should "talk some sense into" his parents, when I firmly believe that is the last thing that needed to happen here. This was my fault for airing this out and asking for opinions. Lesson learned.
Honestly, I don't think any of us here have a malicious bent to our replies. Sometimes it's tough to read between the lines when people ask questions, also there are many unknown idiosyncrasies specific to the situation that we have no way of knowing when responding, so we give it our best shot. The cool thing about these forums is we've all tried our best to be straight up with each other. My first thought with this kid was burnout also, but that was just an educated guess. Sounds like you worked out the situation and have a happy player again.
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I would take the fact that he is only 8 years old first and foremost. As those of us with children can attest to, kids are kids and this really holds true for boys at this age! Is he burned out? I don't think eight year olds that love playing get what could be called the typical burnout. I could see having a feeling of being sick of playing or wanting to do something else at that time, but that is totally different than having the classical burnout. I am not so sure I wouldn't have had his mother take him home for the night as somewhat of a one night pass with the understanding that this was a one time reprieve and that you will hold fast to your rule of no practice - no play. Kids at this age are funny and I would put the fact that he is only eight at the top of the why did he feel this way list.

BL

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I'm very late to this discussion, but I wanted to weigh in with my own concept.

I also think that he was a bit tired - mentally, not physically - so I would be curious how he is now.

I also have a son who is nuts about playing sports. It's burning US out, his family I mean. Me, I'm okay. My wife and daughter, however, were tired of it.

Here was our schedule for 2 months -

Monday, football practice (2 hours, 2 teams)

Tuesday, baseball games (2 hours)

Wednesday, baseball practice (1.5 hours)

Thursday, football practice (2 hours)

Friday, baseball games

Saturday, football games (2.5 hours)

Needless to say, it got tiring.

Baseball ended last week (champions!), so this week is alot easier. Football ends this week also, which will give us all of a week off ... until basketball season starts up. And with basketball season, I coach 3 teams, so there's not alot of free time there for me either.

I coach my daughter's team, my son's team, and the 10-11 year old group, per request by the Y. This will be my last time coaching 3 basketball teams, as my son will be moving up to the 10-11 next season, and I'm not going to coach up again. He also has only one more season at 8-9 flag football, so this coming season is my last coaching 2 teams.

My wife is eager for that, really, because I really do give my all in coaching, and it takes alot of time for me. (Yeah, I'm that psycho coach.)

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I tend to agree with some of the other coaches here. It's very tough for a kid, no matter how good to practice day in and day out year round. They have got to have the opportunity to just be kids. No matter their talent. At eight years old, it is hard to tell what a kid is going to be like ten years down the road. There are many variables which come into play. I have had kids who were studs at 8-9, who worked hard every year after, and for one reason or the other (i.e. physical development, coaching, burning out, etc.), turned out to be inferior later to kids I thought then weren't going to be that good. 8 years old, unless a kid is very very special is too soon to be developing a superstar syndrome. The kid simply needs a break, and needs to choose those few things he likes to do best. And his parents as well as himself needs to allow him to do that. One or two sports is enough. The more he does, eventually the more he will begin to lack in the ones he excels at. I think you are doing right by trying to help him figure it out. Wish you and him the best Coach! Thanks.

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I'm going to weigh back in here. I think an overemphasis on sports is not a good thing. Let's face it, 99% of our kids are going to be out of any kind of serious sports by the time they leave high school. Sports has a definite place and is good for fitness, development and many things but it should not be the primary focus. Hopefully more emphasis is placed on school and academics because that's where the 99% of our kids are going to need to excel. My son has always been the stud athlete of his teams and he loves sports tremendously. But we have him taking music (piano now but he wants to play drums next), and make sure that school comes first and foremost. And we make sure he has time to be a kid, play with friends, ride his skateboard or bike around the neighborhood. We're letting him focus a little more on sports which right now take up 3 evenings a week for him. I could not imagine him doing another sport right now but there are plenty of kids on the team that do it.

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As I stated, he is a good kid with a great family. I don't feel they are the type of people who would impose their will by forcing him to engage in activities he does not want. I also think he is quick to tell his parents if he feels burned out---and they would listen, or pick up on it if that were the sole reason. Anyway, we'll get to the bottom of it tonight. If he tells me he's burned out and does not want to practice, then that is that. He knows no one will force him to play. However, if he wants to be on a football team---and he wants to play in games---then with that comes attending practice. I want him to WANT to come to practice, and I think Texas D was thinking along the sames line as I with respect to emphasizing the importance of practicing. I'm "hoping" he just needs a friendly reminder as to why it is we practice (kids at this age can forget why, believe it or not). I'm afraid if I just chalk it up to "He's simply over committed", I would not be doing my due diligence here.

No matter how well you think you know a family, you should never think that you truly know them. I only say this, because I had a case where I coached a boy and than a couple years later, I coached their youngest son. I kept in touch with them throughout the years on a fairly consistent basis and even gone out with them 2 with my girlfriend on occasion. They were an awesome family that was real supportive of me and my coaching methods and never complained and was always on time to practice. I couldn't have asked for a better family. Come to find out, the husband use to beat the wife and kids repeatedly. So just be careful on judging someone.

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Yeah if a player does not practice he should not play. It is not fair to the other kids on the team. I'd lose a game and sit my best player before I let a kid dictate how much he wants to practice and how hard he wants to work. None of that nonsense should be tolerated. You Don't practice you don't play.

Nice Post though.

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