4 ways to improve player behaviour

As a new coach, I am eager to get hands-on, delivering the best sessions I can think of.

Sometimes they hit, sometimes they miss. That’s life – all part of the journey. I accept mistakes from myself because I accept it from my players. I’m okay with mistakes.

But there was one thing that troubled me. I didn’t know how to handle a group of 10-year-olds and I didn’t know how to deal with their behaviour.

As adults, we like to think children will just blindly do everything we ask. They will – as long as we have built up a solid relationship with them.

This realisation dawned on me one night after a particularly bad training session. I was having a negative impact on that relationship due to my lack of skills.

This left me feeling awful. It wasn’t fair on them and it wasn’t good for me. So I undertook a challenging behaviour course and this is what I learned.



First of all, I love this definition – ‘behaviour that challenges’. Not ‘bad’ behaviour, you’ll notice – because kids aren’t bad people and they’re not behaving in a way to be a villain.

Behaviours are often a child’s way of expressing themselves and communicating their emotions. Any behaviour we would normally describe as ‘naughtiness’ could be the result of a child’s problems at home, an experience of trauma or neglect, peer pressure or they may have special educational needs or disabilities.

This is why we must not react badly or ‘snap’ at behaviour that challenges. We should always approach with intelligence and compassion.


This is what I mean by reacting in an intelligent way. Rather than an instant reaction to a low-level disruption by scalding the child, use softer techniques.

This can include strategically ignoring attention-seeking behaviours – sometimes children who want attention seek it even if it’s negative. Be sure to give attention positively at more appropriate times.

Where possible, use humour to deflect. Peer praise can help get the whole group onside, too. If you notice a few are being disruptive, while others are displaying model behaviour, praise the majority who are setting a good example.

Let them know they are showing the behaviours required and watch as the ones who aren’t suddenly start looking for praise themselves – when they reach your expectations, make sure to praise them.

Portrait of boys team sitting in front of coach on football field listening to pre game speech


Sometimes this can be hard. You may be trying to lead a session while children are wrestling each other, shouting over you and totally disregarding your instructions.

You might feel like packing up and go home but it is vital to stay calm. How you react is your first step to reclaiming the room. If they sense you’ve lost it, you wont get them back. Worse still, when you lose it with them, you’ll start to fracture any relationship you had built up with them.


Make your sessions as fun as possible with plenty of activities and games. I believe the warm up sets the tone – make that interesting and set the expected behaviours right from the off.

Finally, be fun! Have a laugh with them, make them feel good and be positive. Show your passion and enthusiasm for our sport. The reason we all turn up on cold nights is because we love the game, so let them see it.

All this sounds simple, but it’s not. The world-class basics take continual effort and study.

Share this
Follow us