Today, I make the bold claim that we can end sulking players. Forever!
Wouldn’t that be nice?
We all know the “Sulking Player”. They’re upset. They drain your energy. They drain the team’s energy.
They don’t communicate. When they DO play, they suck. AND the parents are probably sulking TOO!
It’s just a lose-lose situation.
To understand how to END SULKING PLAYERS, we need to unpack two quick and dirty psychological tricks. They are (boringly named): Clarity and Agency.
Let’s start with clarity. This is the enemy of most coaches. Yes, you too! YES YOU!!! Even though you’re reading the Coaches Site, feeling all educated, I’m talking to you.
Coaches are not good enough at being clear. If you’re a coach – then that’s you!
How do I know this? Because I deal with players 1on1. That’s my job. Their problems consistently come when they’re unclear what you as a coach wants. When I help them get clarity on what to do in a given situation, their problems often *POOF* go away.
The trick is that you think you’re being clear, but the players are simply not understanding. If you think it’s all their fault, and it has nothing to do with you – then you have some work to do. (Oh, and my material isn’t for you…so bug off).
The reason you think you’re being clear, but players don’t agree is because you’re using “Generalities”. You’ll use words like “Compete”, “Battle”, and “Poise”. These are great words! You and I both know what they mean! But the kids who are “not listening” to you DON’T UNDERSTAND.
Not every coach has time to be extremely specific with each player. I understand the challenge. When you’re on the bench, you’re thinking strategically and tactically. You’re thinking about the entire team’s energy. You’re thinking about line changes. You’re worried about the ref. You’re monitoring energy level and body language. So, it’s hard to take the necessary 15 minutes to explain a concept to each kid. But that said, let me give you a few quick ways to get more clear with a player.
1) Keep Score – Give them a measurable outcome to get to. Use a ratio. Say 80% of your d-zone possessions must be exits. Or 90% of your entries need to end up on the net or below the goal line.
2) Be specific – It should a clear yes or no if the player completed the action or not. That means a clear yes/no for you AND the player. Did you win that battle? Yes/No? Did you get the puck out? Yes/No. Did you compete on that shift? Uh, sorta… Were you poised on that shift? No…? Get Specific.
Ok, second concept: Agency.
This means the ability to choose freely.
You see, players often feel that they have no choice. They think that they’re relegated to the bench regardless of what they do. But that’s probably not true, is it? There are probably things they can do. But they often just don’t know what those things are.
When you give players Agency, you’re going to improve their confidence, their motivations and and desire to play. It’s just that simple. And what coach wouldn’t want that? So here are a few ways to improve a players Agency:
1) Tell them the reward linked to your objective for them – The funny thing with this is that it doesn’t quite matter if the goal is achievable. It just matters that the player has perceived control over their situation. Even if there really is no chance of them getting more ice time, if you tell them EXACTLY what to do to get more ice time, then they are motivated to achieve a specific result. And hey! They might surprise you!
2) Let them choose their goal – Another way to boost agency is letting them choose which specific and measurable goal to strive for is extremely motivating for a player. All players want a challenge. Give it to them. And let them choose for maximum effect.
I actually created a video blog for players to help them initiate this very process with you. It shows them the 4 steps needed to go from the doghouse to the fun house. And along the way, they will get better. And they won’t be sulking. It’s a win-win.
If you want your players to get better, act professionally towards you, and develop as future citizens – share this video with them. It will make your job easier. And it will give them agency and clarity.
Now, make sure to do your part by giving them agency and clarity when they ask for it. No more Generalities! No more cop out answers as to why they’re not getting ice time. Be honest and specific! That’s the win-win.
Did I persuade you that we could End All Sulking Players? Click here to do your part.
Truly, if each player and each coach follows this advice, I think we’d see a lot more driven and focused players. And a lot less sulking ones. And that’s better for hockey, isn’t it?
If you liked this article, you might like my blog. Because it has words too.
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