Coaching Challenges


Scenarios are always tough. Students in our Coaching Principles course were given the following scenario:

You are the head coach of a varsity high school baseball team.  Before the start of the season, you shared team rules and expectations with your parents and players.  One of you rules is if a player has an unexcused absence from a practice on the day before a game, they will NOT play in the game.  It’s finals week and your star pitcher, Anthony, misses practice before the district championship game.  He informs you the next day that he had been up all night studying for a final exam, went home after school to take a nap before practice and overslept.  Anthony is not only your best pitcher but he’s also your best hitter, clean up batter and a senior.  If you lose the game your season is over.  Winning would mean a district championship and an opportunity to play in a state championship.

Would you play Anthony? Why or why not?  What factors do you consider when making your decision?  How do you explain your rationale to Anthony about the decision you made?  To the rest of the team?  To the parents?

Here are a couple of their opinions. What would you do??

By: Erica Hayworth

In this situation I have no choice but to sit Anthony. At the beginning of the season I made it clear that an unexcused absence from practice the day before a game would not be tolerated. The unexcused absence would result in not playing the next day. As a coach, I need to stick to my word and not make exceptions for anyone or because myself and the team want a victory. I set the tone and example for my players.

One could argue that the situation could have been worse, but ultimately what it comes down to is a rule has been broken. I believe there are things Anthony could have done that may have helped his situation. I am a huge advocate for communication. Without communication you cannot be successful. Knowing that I expect lines of communication, Anthony could have easily picked up the phone and called me once he woke. This phone call would have informed me that he was okay and that he was sorry for missing practice. The phone call would have shown me Anthony was stepping up and taking responsibility for his actions. Unfortunately, Anthony did not make a phone call and I was left to worry if he was okay.

The next day I would sit down with Anthony well before the game so he is not blindsided by not playing. As a coach, you have many teachable moments and this is one of those times. I would explain to Anthony that he would not be playing in the game and ask him why he thinks that is. Based on his response I would then explain to him what I would have liked to happen. I would start by explaining that he is a senior and a leader on the team. Being a leader, he sets the standards for everyone around him. I would tell him that a phone call to me should have been the first thing when he realized he over slept and missed practice.This would have given me a piece of mind and would have shown me he was not just flaking out because he thinks he can. This would have shown me responsibility. Had Anthony shown some responsibility and initiative he could have potentially been getting playing time in the game.

My job as the coach is to not tear Anthony down and yell at him because of this. After I explained the appropriate step he should have taken, I would then talk to him about managing his time so he doesn’t stay up all hours of the night. Being a former collegiate athlete I can use examples from my own experiences that may help Anthony in the future. Finally, I would explain my expectations for Anthony on the bench. I would expect him to be cheering his teammates on and supporting the team. Sitting on the bench and pouting wouldn’t help his situation. If he does this and we win then there is no reason he wouldn’t play the next game. The message should be read loud and clear after sitting once. Ultimately, I want Anthony to see that he is a big part of this team and he should be playing, but just because he should be playing doesn’t mean he will. There is always a consequence for an action and it is unfortunate that this incident happened at the time it did.

By: Kaitlyn Guobis

According to The Strategies for Character Building through Sports Participation, in The Journal of Academic Research in Business and Social Sciences it has been proven that students who participate in sports have better attendance in school, lower drop-out rates, fewer discipline problems, and less drug use. In order to build character they say that coaches need to support ideal notions of ethics, moral reasoning, character and sportsmanship. It is up to the coach to be someone that motivates their players and provide a positive environment in which players can learn from. From what I have read and learned through our readings thus far, I would only play Anthony if the team started to struggle. I would make Anthony believe that being irresponsible landed him a spot on the bench.

By making Anthony believe that he would not be able to play in one of the most important games of his season will teach him to be more responsible. Like we learned before we need to stick to our coaching philosophies no matter how hard it may be and I have always believed that sports are more than just winning and losing. Anthony will not only be upset for himself but for his teammates as well because of the significance of a district championship. If it came down to the other pitchers struggling, I would explain to Anthony that I was playing him because his teammates need him and it is not fair to them that they must suffer because he was irresponsible. I would explain that the rest of the team showed up and did their part so they should not be punished for his actions. I would say the same to the rest of the team and let them know that the reason for playing Anthony was because the other team is ahead or whatever the case may be, and tell them they worked hard and deserve to win due to their hard work. The parents of the boys on the team would receive the same explanation as the players.

Not only will this incidence instill the value of responsibility in Anthony but it can also teach him time management. By starting to study ahead of time he will not have to cram as much studying into one week, he will already know the material. Although Anthony still got his way and was able to play in the game I would make him run bases or sprints after the game to “complete his punishment,” and make sure playing in the game did not reinforce his behavior. This way the team knows he was not let off the hook as well as Anthony.

Using the NAIA 4 concepts on “how to teach character,” I would define responsibility as showing up on time, doing your part as part of the team, working together as a team, and then owning up and taking responsibility for your actions. Teaching responsibility through drills, I would choose one that if someone doesn’t complete the drill properly they will have to do a lap or a sprint to reinforce that in order to be successful that play must be made. I will shape the players so that school is the first priority because without good grades they will be ineligible. They will also be rewarded when they do well in a drill or in a game like having a fun practice with drills that they enjoy doing. Being rewarded ties in the fourth concept of positive reinforcement. This could be per individual or as a team. No matter what, good sportsmanship should always be found in practice and in games as well as helping players to improve and reach their highest potential.

By: Scott LaRente

I would choose not to play Anthony.  The rationale is simple; a rule is a rule. Even though the situation involves certain circumstances including best pitcher & hitter, a Senior in a district championship, and a Senior attempting to finish the year out strong by studying hard for a Final exam; none of this matters when there is a set rule regarding missing practice on a day before a game.  Both parents and players were aware of the rules before the season and the rules must apply to everyone, no matter the talent or game situation.

To explain my decision to Anthony and his parents, I would use the aspects of character that are explained in the NAIA videos.  The videos explained that integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship and servant leadership all are aspects of high character.  Anthony failed to show quality character by missing practice because he did not exhibit the responsibility he has to his teammates, coaches, school, community, family and most importantly to himself to attend all team activities as we try to prepare for such a big event like a district championship.  Explaining what we feel represents high character and that coaching character is just as important than coaching for wins should help define what the program expects.  Hopefully this will help the family understand Anthony not being allowed to play.  In a situation like this in the future, the player should have contacted the coach before the issue, not after.  Students know when finals are well ahead of time and district championships do not come out of nowhere either.

I would emphasize that I feel Anthony can learn from his situation and be a more successful person in the future because of it.  For positive feedback, Anthony would also hear that having high character is not easy and mistakes can happen.  Especially if it is a lapse in time management due to many responsibilities.  Having athletic commitments on top of school responsibilities can be very difficult at times.  That is why being a student-athlete is so special!  He would be encouraged to explain the situation to his teammates himself to show his true responsibility & leadership and to help the team in other ways during the game.

As for the team, before the game, I would basically give them a less detailed version of what I explained to Anthony and his parents.  I would go over what it means to have high character, what is expected of them and that there are consequences when those expectations are not met.

After the game, I would try to positively reinforce Anthony by letting him know how proud I am of him to accept his mistakes and be there for his teammates.  Hopefully the game went well and he has a chance to perform in the state championship.


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