Players (and teams) play and learn best when there is the right balance of discipline and fun in the environment. Parents are not handing over their children to you just solely to have fun. If that were the case, they’d be off at Chuck-e-Cheese with them. They expect you, just like their teachers at school, to provide structure so that they can learn and develop in a fun environment.
Kids can’t learn if they are being distracted. Some kids will eagerly take coaching, sometimes you’ll have kids that don’t really want to be there that day for whatever reason. How can you deal with these instances and keep the team on track? Here is a sort of progression I have settled into:
- From day 1 of practice when you’re talking to kids getting to know them, you will inevitably have kids looking down, picking at grass etc. You need to set the tone early and often. I tell the kids that I need them to “listen with their eyes”. That means that in order for me to be sure that they are listening to me, I need them to look at me while I’m speaking and not be talking. After doing this a few times they will start to adjust
- When instructing in a group, always have the team around you equally. Never let players hide behind other players
- If you have one individual that still mentally wanders, surprise that player by stopping and asking the player to repeat your instruction. Separate certain players as needed as well: “if you want to pair up with friends during practice activities, you have to know when to pay attention”
- If basic measures like this aren’t effective, I don’t recommend pushing the above any farther. In the rare cases I’ve had real issues I have calmly asked the player to stop practicing and to go wait for me by the water area. I will wait 5 minutes or so then go over and calmly explain why it’s important to me and the team that their activity stop. My final warning to them is that if this keeps happening, I will have to talk to their parents about it. And (most importantly) that I may need their parents to stay and watch them practice if behavior doesn’t improve.
- If the behavior continues, you have no choice but to inform and involve the parents. If you are going to insist that the parents stay at practice, you should also be notifying the league (firstname.lastname@example.org) to be on the safe side. I’ve (knock on wood) never had to insist on this last step. You should have your assistant with you when talking to parents so that there is never a “your word vs theirs” scenario. Reach out to email@example.com and your division coordinator with questions/concerns