Are some athletes totally un-coachable?


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This weeks topic is brought to you by friend of the FCN Carmen Pekkarinen – a Ringette and Ice-Hockeyun-coachable athelte Coach from Finland.

This week, we want to ask you – are there some athletes that are completely un-coachable and how do you deal with them?

  • Are some athletes totally un-coachable?
  • How do you deal with an un-coachable athlete?
  • Have you ever asked an athlete / player to leave?
  • Have you over come the un-coachable athlete and continued to coach them?


Share your thoughts, stories and experiences with us via the forum or twitter.

We look forward to reading your thoughts!




Answers on twitter & forum

Amy Taylor –  two perspectives, depending. Change coach approach, or as Steve Hansen…says “if you can’t change the man, change the man.”

Nyree Hanna – keep trying, find out what they respond to and need in a coach, use others

Ali Nolan – No-one is un-coachable. If you think they are, you’re doing it wrong!

Carol Wical – Reckon question 1 for coach has to be: Is it me?

Manisha Tailor – interesting debate. IMO it takes a special coach to unlock & tap into existing potential. Give em a chance

Sarah Jauncey – no one is uncoachable, issues arise when the relationship between coach and athlete fails.

Catherine Baker – we know that in the mix for success are talent and attitude. If attitude not right, try and find out what them tick and give them some tools to work on attitude. If still no success, maybe time to focus elsewhere?

Fran Howarth – No one is uncoachable. Adaptable coaching styles to suit all

Int Speed Coach (?)–  I actually do think some are uncoachable. I had one who I tried so hard with, even coaches her on her own, gave extra support but in the end had to ask her to leave. She came back 3 years later more mature & apologised for her behaviour.

Debbie Ferguson (Bahamas) –  Of course the answer is yes to that question, but as coaches it’s our job to change that.  “Uncoachable kids become unemployable adults,let your kids get use to someone being tough on them It’s life, get over it” P.Murphy.  As coaches we must bring a culture of high standard with persistency,consistency,patience,love,trust.etc most kids will conform.  we stick to facts and to the truth. With time the uncoachable kid will learn the lessons to be taught.

Dani Sweetman (Malaysia) –  Depends on if there’s chemistry between you and the athlete. And the athlete also has the onus to opt-in on the relationship.

Sarah M’Grady (UK) –  with kids, depends if it’s ability or attitude – both able to be turned round but in different ways.  ability with kids work with what you’ve got & aim for small goals – attitude with kids , bring parents into equation.  Always be aware of impact on the team tho

Shireen Ahmed (Canada) – Personalities are diff. Must work with them.  Also requires creativity and other strategies.  Some best players are difficult to coach. Egos.

Jools Murray (Canada) – Athlete issue or would a good coach be able to reach anyone? Do we really know our priority & all ways to achieve it.

Rachel Brient (UK) –  no you just have to change your style and interventions to suit them.

Maha El Nasser (USA /UK) – every player is coachable, but some require more effort. The question is whether it’s always worth the effort.

Joey Peters (Australia) – We need to change this language.’coachable’… It should be about the kids and their needs.   Engagement is the key word.

Carmen P (Finland) – I am really looking forward to reading what other coaches have to say about this. If anyone recognizes my name, I have posted here before regarding the 7-10 year-old ringette players I coach. Ringette is a sport for girls, played on ice – kind of like ice hockey, but different in many ways.  I’d like to comment on a couple of girls I deal with and wonder what the future will hold for them.

I am sure you will recognize the two personalities, “I can’t do this” and “Yeah! Yeah! <ignores all advice given>.  One girl has been playing ringette for 3-4 years and  I have pinned down why her skating technique is not improving. Every time we try to suggest to her how she can make it better and do better she nearly cries and says, “I can’t.” This is a kid whose older sister is a carbon copy – I also heard her say the same thing yesterday (and it was the first time I had ever met her). She has some self-esteem issues, I believe.

So, how do you deal with the crier? No matter what we do, she feels like she is being persecuted. If she could move past this and follow advice, she will actually be a good player – I really believe that. There are improvements in her play and I always try to emphasize that.

The second kid has also been playing 3-4 years is a kind of “know-it-all” and when given suggestions on how to improve, I get the “Yeah, yeah” – like she knows better than I do. Her mom is a helicopter parent (also helps out with the team). I actually don’t even want to deal with this individual anymore because she *never* listens to what the coaches say to her or ask her to do in practices and games. This is a kid who I think will be uncoachable in the future.

They’re young though and time may change things…

I’d like to read what other coaches think.


Sarah (?) – Hi there,
Been here many times with all ages. The self confidence issue, and the crier… is what I have done in the past, not saying it is correct but I have had some success at primary, high school level. I have put these in charge of their own outcomes. For example opening the conversation with tell me what you do really well? If they say I don’t know, I ask what they enjoy the most, then follow with the why and when. Once we then have established that they like a certain aspect over another, we (and it’s always a collaboration) look at how they can ‘enjoy it’ more. Then I ask them to think of three ways that would make it more fun, or make them better. Once they have this control over the outcome the confidence grows. From there I then ask them to mentor another weaker player in that particular skill. It has never been an overnight thing and has taken in some cases months, but in the majority of cases this has worked. Good luck!
The other is the tougher of the two. The parent is quite possibly ‘coaching’ in the car….it’s common in swimming. You teach them one way, parent tells them to do it another. In my experience it is a gently gently approach with very small bite size changes, things that they don’t even realise are happening. I start with really small adjustments like eyes, hands then as they become more open move to more coachable areas. This is a really slow process, and keep them busy, making sure you reiterate something to them before they leave, they do a lot of thinking when they change! Or ask her to evaluate another player, and then evaluate herself against the evaluation….but this is tough!
Hope I have helped even a little x


Thanks to everyone for taking part – there was even more discussion between coaches on twitter! 






  1. I found this discussion very enlightening. I am the mother of a 15-year-old athlete whose coach removed her from the (club’s) competition team this week. This follows a terrible loss the team suffered at the last tournament. My daughter became emotional; her performance was terrible; the team performed quite poorly in the final game. The following day, the coach calls me and informs me that he has to remove her from competition because she is not coachable. He cites she rejected his request to use a new technique during the final game. She says, she would make things worse if she tried this technique, which she hasn’t practiced. She is the “crier” is Carmen P (Finland) example. She is capable, skilled, enjoys game, & friendships. Coach asked that she continues to practice with club and former team. When I shared with my daughter, she simply asked “I am ready, can you still take me to practice?” Her coaches have said nothing to her (good or bad) after the game nor practice? Should she continue with coaches who will not interact with her at that level? Leave the club and team? Stay and reset goals/expectations?

  2. This is a really interesting question! I have found myself in a position where I had an un-coachable athlete. He wanted to be there but didn’t. He liked the people he was with but he didn’t. People tolerated him. I spent a lot of time being frustrated with him and his poor work ethic until I realized that he is in this for reasons I’ll never know. We just agreed that our personalities would never be compatible, making them quite compatible. He is there for whatever reason and I will be there to help him out when he’s ready.


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