INSPIRATION | CONFIDENCE | SUCCESS

4 player complaints…and how to reply

Thomas Tuchel’s relatively easy ride as Chelsea head coach hit a bump in the road recently, with £97 million striker Romelu Lukaku testing his patience.

The club-record signing was dropped from the squad for last weekend’s Premier League clash with Liverpool, following an interview in which he spoke of his dissatisfaction about his role at Stamford Bridge.

The pair have since met to clear the air, resulting in a public apology from Lukaku.

While grassroots coaches won’t have to handle the fallout of a centre-forward speaking out in the media, dealing with unhappy players is something we are all likely to experience at some point.

But how can we best go about it? Here are some common complaints from players and how you could address them…

 

01 – “I’M NOT GETTING ENOUGH MINUTES ON THE PITCH”

Game time will always be important to players, but we can only play 11 (or nine/ seven/five depending on age) at any one time. It is important players understand their role at the start, regardless of how many minutes they go on to play. If players aren’t involved as often as they would like, ensure they know the reasons why and set them targets to achieve. Keep checking in with them, so they know you are supporting them.

02 – “YOU’RE PLAYING ME IN THE WRONG POSITION”

Try to explain why – they may be doing an important job for tactical reasons, because of availability of other players or simply because you think they have the attributes to succeed in that position. For younger players, it can be helpful to explain that they will become a better player with an understanding of different positions, even if it’s not their first-choice role. A striker playing in defence, for example, will start to understand the thoughts and movements of a defender, giving them extra weapons when they return to playing up front.

Romelu Lukaku and Thomas Tuchel have patched up their relationship

03 – “WHY ARE WORSE PLAYERS GETTING THE SAME GAME TIME AS ME?”

At the younger age groups, many coaches will try to give players equal game time. This can occasionally leave players frustrated, especially as they become more aware of who the stronger players in the team are. Remind players that everybody is there to play, enjoy themselves and learn, and that everyone deserves an equal chance. Team values and culture can help, particularly if the players have established the values themselves – you can then remind players of these and encourage them to reflect on why they chose them in the first place.

04 – “WHY AM I BEING TAKEN OFF ALL THE TIME?”

Substituting a player can be an opportunity to explain a coaching point or give feedback on something that happened during play. Turn substitutions into a positive, so players see coming off as an opportunity to learn, before going back on to implement the advice. Younger players can also benefit from activities as a substitute – set up a small 1v1 area at the side of the pitch for them to continue playing and stay warm, or give them a task, such as keeping track of your team’s matchday targets before feeding back to their team-mates during a break.

 

With all of this, it is important to consider the age of your players. Dealing with a seven-year-old striker unhappy at playing in defence will likely look different to dealing with a senior player in the same situation.

Be sure to understand any issues players may be facing off the pitch, be it at school, home or work, as this may impact attitude and performances.

A good relationship will also help earn a player’s buy-in if, for example, you want to play them in a different position.

Most of all, create a culture among your players where they decide their own values. This will help avoid major disciplinary issues – and if any do occur, players can then hold each other accountable.

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