I came across an interesting question in a coaching group on Facebook.

I coach a Div 1 men’s team in Copenhagen, Denmark. We have a few guys who get very angry with themselves when they make mistakes and then it brings the mood down for everyone.

Question: As a coach, how do I help to get them out of this habit? Or how do I help the rest of the team to cope with them?

I’ve already addressed this partly in the post Ways to help players put errors behind them. That looks at things mainly in terms of how a player internally handles their mistakes.

What seems to be the situation here is that there’s an external one as well as an internal. The anger reactions of the players in question have an impact on their teammates. This is also important to address.

If a player occasionally has an outburst of anger after making a mistake, it isn’t necessarily a problem. As long as they are able to immediately thereafter interact in a constructive fashion with their teammates, it’s probably fine. The problem comes when that anger persists and negatively impacts the team interactions. For example, teammates feel like they need to walk on egg shells to avoid upsetting the player further. You can’t have the whole team retracting into a more internal focus.

The only way to deal with this sort of thing is to tackle it head-on. Talk to them about what their behavior is doing to the team, with support from a captain or other teammate they respect. Show them video if you can. Make progress toward improvement part of your ongoing assessment. If you don’t see the player making appropriate effort to improve, reduce playing time, as you would if it was any other part of the game.

Before taking any of this on, though, be sure it’s really a problem for the team. I personally am not a fan of anger-driven outbursts, but that doesn’t mean they are necessarily a bad thing. For some players they are simply an outlet, and oftentimes they aren’t a problem for the team. So be sure you know you actually have an issue before you potentially create one.

By the way, this doesn’t just apply to anger reactions. Players who show negative body language (head down, dropped shoulders, etc.) after errors can also impact the overall team. You need to take a similar approach to handling them.

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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.

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