I once watched a video featuring part of a talk by Russ Rose, the now retired coach of Penn State women’s volleyball. Aside from the fact that he mentioned Rhode Island, the state I grew up in (Penn State used to be in the Atlantic 10 conference with the University of Rhode Island), I was particularly interested in his perspective on attitude problem players. He flat out refuses to bring them into his squad. His reason was something like this:

If I take a pass on an extremely talented, but bad attitude, player the worse she can do is give me 8 days of grief over four years by beating us (meaning twice a year in conference play). If she goes to a non-conference team then it’s only 4 times in the NCAA tournament. However, if I bring her into my team she can make my life – and that of the whole rest of the program – miserable every day for four years.

I’ve never heard it expressed like that. I can definitely relate to how challenging life can be when there’s a problem player in the squad, though. It can make for an absolutely miserable season.

Coach Rose obviously had a significant advantage. He led a top program and was able to be very selective about the players he recruited. Not all of us have the ability to be quite so picky. Even still, unless forced to coach a specific group of players, we do have the recourse of suspension or cut to jettison a problem attitude.

So my question to readers is this: Where’s the line? How much attitude are you willing to take? Does the line vary according to the player’s talent? Is the line different for a male team than for a female one? And I’m not talking here about general “this generation” issues.

Leave a comment below and let us know your view.

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John Forman
John Forman

John is currently the Talent Strategy Manager (oversees the national teams) and Indoor Performance Director for Volleyball England, as well as Global Director for Volleyball for Nation Academy. His volleyball coaching experience includes all three NCAA divisions, plus Junior College, in the US; university and club teams in the UK; professional coaching in Sweden; and both coaching and club management at the Juniors level. He's also been a visiting coach at national team, professional club, and juniors programs in several countries. Learn more on his bio page.

    3 replies to "Dealing With Bad Player Attitudes – Just Don’t Have Them"

    • CH

      I think the tone of a team is always set by the coach. What coaches allow or don’t allow filters through the team. I’ve always coached middle through high school girls and teen drama easily can accompany that age group. In my opinion, this is an age in development all around, meaning developing play and interpersonal skills. Most kids who I’ve come across with attitudes were allowed to have them and act on them. I stop it as soon as I see it, give the kids a choice to participate (as it’s voluntary) or move on, and help walk the ones who are willing through the process. Kids won’t know how to necessarily change or behave. They need examples.

    • Roger Ozime

      I’ve been on both sides with the attitude. It is much easier to get the team focus forward with the positive attitude.

      OTOH, when your team has no athletic talent or you are forced to have players with attitudes, it’s like herding cats into getting them going into the same direction. It’s a lot more work emotionally, but it can be done. It may take more than a year or two depending on how much you can connect with that player.

    • Laurie

      What I have noticed is that attitudes often happen when there is a distinct difference in abilities, effort, and unshared goals. There is so much pressure on athletes (often from parents). Many parents of talented children believe that their child is or needs to be a super star. If their child lacks athletic ability, then they are more interested in their child being a good teammate. I think the culture of the program has to reflect both the desire to work hard and be good to each other, regardless of athletic ability. A team can have a lot of talent but tank because it is a me not we mentality.

Please share your own ideas and opinions.