No matter the level of play, every coach will experience a player who, for all intents and purposes, doesn't "want" to participate or make any extra effort on a given day or in a given season. There are as many reasons for this as there are players. Maybe they are having a bad day, trouble at home, nursing what may be an injury.
What it means to you, however, is a disruption in the team. One bad apple can often spoil the bunch. Team spirit and unity can be negatively affected. This makes your job very difficult. If the player is a team leader, other teammates may follow. If he or she is an integral part of your game plan, major adjustments need to be made. So it is important that you take the time to address the issue with the player. The hard-nosed, "If you are not going to make the effort, then you can leave," "Quit wasting my time," or "Come back when you want to play," may have an effect on some players, but for that moment you still have to consider what is going on with the rest of the team, and how that interaction as such will go over and impact them.
Interactions with the player should be private and not done in the heat of the moment. If possible, ask the player to just sit out and observe practice. Indicate you would like to talk afterward. During your talk, ask open-ended questions such as, "Why do you think you were not really in to playing today?" "What can I do to help you?" You may find through your discussion certain patterns or causes for the lack of desire. Could it be a poor nutrition during the day? A lack of sleep? Family issues? Maybe something that was said to the player in the past which got to him or her? It may be that the player is bored or not feeling challenged anymore. Or feeling they are not matching the skill level of their teammates.
A good motivational tool in every coach's toolkit is goal-setting. A personalized plan with each player, including goals for practices as well as competitions, can be invaluable for maintaining motivational levels. Team goals for practices, competition and the season overall can be powerful motivators for players and you, too!
The most important thing to remember when dealing with an unmotivated player is that ultimately you cannot change his or her behavior; only the player can do that. But your role as caring supporter and adviser can go a long way toward enabling the player to make his or her own changes. Your involvement is key.
Articles for Coaches
Information to use with your athletes to improve their individual performance, and your team's success.