How to deal with an athlete with behavioral issues

Ask A Coach: Ray Tanguay

Q: How do you deal with an athlete that has behavioral issues?

A: High school athletics are designed to support the academic program, therefore participation in athletics are a privilege, not a right. All teams have written rules and regulations that must be adhered to during the sport season. These rules must be enforced equally among all players of the team and the coach needs to act as an example for the team to follow. These rules will set the tone for proper behavior for ALL athletes on the team. It doesn’t matter what the behavioral issue may be, everyone follows the same rules and endures the same consequences.

In my 15 plus years of coaching, my experience has been that the athletes enjoy working hard at practice and participating in games and contests. The drive from within the students to obtain a starting spot, play, or even participate on the team helps to control behavior in the gym, busses, locker rooms, etc. Any type of inappropriate behavior from the athletes will result in loss of playing time, loss of a start, or a meeting with the parents, coach, and student. In most cases, this will stop the inappropriate behaviors from occurring.

In many cases, a conversation between athlete and coach can solve the behavioral issues, as both parties will develop insight to the problem. The coach and student-athlete should set-up some brief ground rules before the meeting, such as: “we will not raise voices at each other”, “the conversation will remain calm”, “we can agree to disagree”, “our conversations remain confidential”, and “our goal of this meeting is to . . .” In many cases, these conversations will open the eyes of both parties to find a solution to control the undesired behaviors.

Finally, if no intervention has been successful and the behaviors continue and are detrimental to the sport program, removal from the team is a possibility. This should be a last ditch effort, and the coach should have made contact with the student, parent, athletic director, and the school administration.


Ray Tanguay is the athletic director at Oliver Wolcott Technical School in Torrington. He also serves as the school’s volleyball coach, and has over 15 years of experience in coaching. Ray will answer your questions about high school athletics in this column. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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