How To Have A Difficult Conversation With A Player


Whether you’ve got a player who has been slacking off in the weight room, not getting it done and about to lose their starting spot, or who is being an awful human being toward a teammate, sometimes coaching requires us to have tough conversations.

Reading Tackle Conflicts with Conversation showed me that it’s at least possible to have these conversations without things a) resulting in tears, b) completely falling apart irreparably, or c) feeling super awkward post-talk.

That a thing is possible doesn’t make it probable.  Here are a few steps from the article that would increase our chances of having a productive, rather than destructive, conversation:

  • Clarify the conflict.  This one is almost like going to Starbucks.  “It seems like you have a personal conflict with Susie that you are uncomfortable addressing with her directly.”  “Yes coach, I have a personal conflict with Susie that I am uncomfortable addressing with her directly.”  I suppose this gives both player and coach a common ground.
  • Consult a neutral friend or coach.  I do this one all the time.  Hopefully you’ve all got a trusted coaching friend who can tell you when you’re off base or if you’re right on track.
  • Reframe, refocus, and redirect the conversation.  If you’ve ever had a difficult conversation with a player, you know they can divulge into rehashing the past.  No fun and not necessary.  When you feel the chat going down that road, that’s when it’s time to refocus on what should happen in the future, not what has gone on in the past.

Well, it’s worth a shot!  While most of us would rather avoid these uncomfortable conversations, I think they are a part of the coaching profession.