Dealing with Underperformance of a Starter

Having a regular starter who has a sudden change in fortune due to underperformance can be one of the most challenging issues facing a coach. The option of being able to talk to the player because of a solid communication bridge between the player and coach is vital in dealing with the issue in a constructive and positive manner.


As a coach your thoughts should always turn towards what is best for the team. This is the underlying rule when coaching and something many coaches talk at length about with their teams. It is easy to state, but when it comes to the crunch of having to talk to a player about the issue of underperformance this can quickly become a very big hurdle.


Player and Coach Talking (Source: Master Sgt. Doug Sample)
Player and Coach Talking (Source: Master Sgt. Doug Sample)

It is important to acknowledge that depending on the culture of your team this may or may not be a significant issue in the first place. If you build and reinforce a culture within your team of regular changes to your starting group, then players will expect a great degree of movement between player rotations from starting to the bench. However even in these situations it is still important to maintain the confidence of your payers and help develop resilience against this these types of issues into the future.


As a coach you need to approach this topic in a professional and empathetic manner. Try to avoid revealing this outcome in a group setting especially where the player who is struggling with underperformance has been a regular starter for a long period of time. Initially talk to the player one on one to let them know of your concerns and then action you are taking. Following this, the discussion about the starting line-up can be revealed to the group with regards to changes.


When talking to the player about underperformance it is important to be honest with regards to revealing your reasons as to why changed your thinking on the rotations for the group. This should also be a point of note for you as a coach to make sure you have in your mind what the reasons are behind the decision. By doing this you will be able to give the player clear and definite reasons for your decision in a logical and rational way.


Once you have highlighted the reasons for your decision you must try to work out a blueprint for action in regards to addressing the underperformance of the player. This helps build trust and exemplifies your integrity as a coach to the player and the team in general. It will allow you to give direction and set goals for the player on their way back to regaining their performance standard.


When having these types of talks with players it can be challenging and this situation can be compounded when the player has a significant role within the team like that of a Captain. But these scenarios also provide an opportunity to build stronger ties between you as the coach the player which will help in pressure situations or times of significant conflict within the team.


In talking to the player there should be an opportunity for two way communication. Avoid giving a lecture or not allowing the player to talk. Having a good base of dialogue during these discussions will help the player let you know of any issues you might not be aware of and possibly also lead you to the answer of how to fix the situation around the player’s underperformance on the court.

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Coach Riches has been working within the sport, business and education industries for many years. During this time he has built an extensive number of formal and informal qualifications. A firm believer in training and development designed to help people reach their full potential, relevant o their needs and functional to their industry environment.

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