Responsible Forms of Discipline

Oct. 08, 2010, 12 a.m. (ET)

One of the ultimate ironies of youth and high school sports occurs when coaches discipline “lazy” players by making them run. Why is that ironic? Because it is lazy coaching.

Responsible Coaches who see players in need of conditioning should help them get it. And Responsible Coaches who see players in need of discipline should help them get that.

But too often, coaches fall back on running or other forms of conditioning to punish players for anything from poor performance in games to breaking team rules. Among the reasons Responsible Coaches should avoid using conditioning as punishment:

  • It often is not safe. Especially in extreme weather, this sort of punishment can lead to a variety of health dangers, such as heat stroke and dehydration.
  • Your players will come to despise running and other forms of conditioning because it feels like punishment. You want them to love running so that they will want to run and become the best-conditioned athletes possible.

  • You are abandoning an opportunity to teach life lessons about discipline, which may be better accomplished by talking about the subject. You can use the famous John Wooden quotation, “Discipline yourself, and others won’t need to.” This approach also sets an example, as players see you exercising the discipline required to coach responsibly, rather than giving in to the knee-jerk compulsion to punish.

So, what are some of your options for correcting problems in either behavior or performance?

In an effort to benefit millions of youth athletes, parents and coaches, this article is among a series created exclusively for partners in the Liberty Mutual Responsible Sports ProgramTM ( powered by Positive Coaching Alliance (