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Few people like to be a disciplinarian. It can be draining. It can be frustrating. It can negatively impact your program.
But what is going to have more of a negative impact on the program is if you fail to discipline your kids when they need it. If you let the chickens run the roost, you'll quickly lose the control that you need to maintain an effective work environment.
Discipline must be firm, fair and consistent. See how those can be attained in order to maintain an impactful discipline structure in your athletic program.Firm
Teenagers need guidelines and they need to be held accountable to the guidelines that have been set up in the program, on their campus, etc. Coaches must be firm in their discipline and how they dish it out, or student-athletes will learn to walk all over them. If a coach is not firm, then kids know that they can get away with little things, and eventually those little things lead to big problems. Those problems could have been avoided with a firm discipline policy. Fair
Being fair is also a very important part of discipline. By being fair, it means that the punishment must fit the crime. Coaches must have set rules and a clear set of responses should a rule be broken. This way, they will always be fair and not swayed by the standing or popularity of student-athletes. We have all seen that happen, which causes more issues with the rest of the team. They will not be swayed by their emotions, which coaches tend to have an issue with. Have a written discipline policy that states if you break rule X, then Y is the punishment. For instance, "If you are late, you will run one cross field for each minute. If the team leaves stuff out in the locker room, they will do 25 up-downs per piece of equipment." These are clear rules, black and white. This helps coaches to be fair across the board.
Consistency is the most important thing about discipline in high school athletics. Without consistent discipline, the student-athletes will run wild. Coaches can't be provoked because they are having a bad day and want to take it out on their students. Coaches must learn how to be consistent. It is one of the hardest things to do as a coach.
However, once you establish that reputation of being a firm, fair and consistent coach, the problems in your program will be lessened.
When I was an athletic director, one of our coaches had a rule about earrings. You were not allowed to wear them during practices or games. But soon, he stopped caring about practices, and I noticed a lot of kids were wearing them. Next thing you know, halfway through the season, he gets in to an argument with a kid, and then tells the kid to remove his earrings.
The earrings had nothing to do with the genesis of the argument. But the coach tried enforcing the rule all of a sudden. That then turned in to a loud demonstration by not only that kid, but the rest of the team. Most of the team started saying "no, we aren't taking them out during practices now. We haven't in two months, we aren't now." With a consistent policy, this coach would have avoided this problem, and not wasted valuable in season time dealing with unnecessary drama.Chris Fore is a veteran Head Football Coach and Athletic Director from Southern California. He consults coaches and programs nationwide through his business Eight Laces Consulting.