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Kids Sports & Recreation/Players who repeatedly miss practice


Thank you for taking the time with my dilemma.
Yesterday was the teams 5th soccer practice.  I have 19 girls (U13) who are on my roster, out of those 19...5 called to say they wouldn't make it (they were too sore from doing another soccer practice for provincials), 2 showed up and the rest never showed up or called.  
I have our game tomorrow and what I am thinking is that after the game, those who called do 5 laps around the goal posts and those who didn't 10 laps around the goal posts..and the ones who showed up can go home.  I would really like to make the ones who never showed up not play..but I can't do that.
Do you have any suggestions on how to deal with this situation?  I had talked to some of the girls last week about missing practices and I had also reminded all of them after last weeks game about our practice on the following Sunday.
Thanks again

ANSWER: Hi Robin, sounds like it was a tough week. Here's my take on it.

First, never punish with laps or exercise. That's what you want them to do and if you punish with it they will associate training with punishment. Not good. And as a rule of thumb, punishment doesn't work anyway. I have never seen it decrease unwanted behavior in 30 plus years of coaching.

My first question is what have you done to establish rules and consequences? One meeting isn't going to be enough. I would have it in writing and signed by the kids...and the parents. Parents need to be on board with any consequence. And then coach/teach why it is important to come. You could do this with a written contract stating a) the reasons why they are playing and b) their goals. U13 is a good age to do this.

When establishing the rules/consequences, I would encourage the team to come up with them. That way they are more invested. If it just comes down from you, it may not be perceived as fair.

And sometimes the excuses are legitimate. So be sure to establish what is an acceptable reason.

Since I don't know what level the team is or the situation, it's hard to say what are appropriate consequences. Here are some:
1. Not start and limited time (appropriate)
2. Not play. Harsh and punitive (plus potential parent problems)
3. An apology in front of the team for letting them down.
4. A review of their goals and contract. Maybe it needs to be reevaluated.

Who knows, maybe they should be encouraged to quit or be cut, especially on a highly competitive team. They will learn a valuable lesson and typically if they aren't coming to practice they aren't invested in the team anyway. If it's recreational level then that's probably not appropriate.

As I read your question again, I saw that it was only their 5th practice so you haven't had much chance to establish rules and procedures. I would do that asap. And again, involve the parents. The parents have to be taught as well (trust me on this!) It might even be telling them that their daughters will come up with BS excuses and that they have to be tough.

One other thing...the girls who did come to practice. Lots of praise for them. Maybe a phone call from you to thank them for their dedication. I'm not a big fan of external rewards, I think it makes the kids who didn't get them feel ripped off and cheapens the hard work and effort and love of the game.

Hope this helps. If you want more details or to share ideas, let me know.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

After thinking about it futher..and calmed down a little...I decided to let the girls know that practices would be an hour and a half before the games on tuesdays..but we would only be practcing for an hour..give them a 1/2 hour break and then have our game..since most of the girls show up for the games..this will stillget them in soccer mode.  I didn't blame anyone ..I just said that since that day wasn't convient for most people, we would just have it before the games..seems to have gone over well..we'll see next week.
Thanks again for your help..I really appreciate it :)

I like the thinking behind the practice before the game. Another idea, is to give them homework to do. It could be exercises, soccer drills, even watching Youtube videos. Again, teach goal setting and accountability so they set what they think is an appropriate amount of time during the week.

I've got a ebook program which might help you with exercises and stuff. Also, my blog has frequent articles which you could adapt for your program. The site is Take a look and if you're interested, let me know. I'll give you the program for free.

Best of luck!

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Ron Usher


If you have a question about sports, fitness, activities, and healthy living dealing with kids ages 3 to 18, I can help. I've been coaching and working with coaches, kids and sports for over thirty years. I can also help with questions about adapted PE for kids with disabilities.


Currently adapted physical education teacher for kids with disabilities ages 6 to 22. Swim and water polo coach for 30 years. Worked as a personal trainer to develop athletic skills for kids in a wide variety of sports. Very knowledgeable in strength, conditioning, balance and skill development. I believe sports are great for kids but they don't replace a healthy, active, family lifestyle.

BA physical education, minor in sports psychology. MA in kineseology. Single subject credential in physical education with an adapted PE certificate.

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