How to Coach the Bratty Athlete

How to Coach the Bratty Athlete


If you have never had an athlete on your team with attitude, you are one lucky coach.  The truth is though, every team has the bratty athlete; the girl with attitude, negative leadership, and lack of respect.  Now, it’s not necessarily your job to understand where the attitude comes from, but it is your job to keep her in check while she is a member on your team.

Many female athletes act out in different ways for attention and acceptance, and that is okay, as long as it does not negatively affect the team.  Female athletes love to be loved and however they can receive that acknowledgment, they will do it.  The one thing you want to avoid as a coach is negative actions to receive attention.  If you have an athlete on your team being disrespectful, not doing what they are told, and rallying her teammates to do the same, she needs to be stopped immediately.  The longer that behavior ensues, the more time she has to take control of the team.  Female athletes can be very clingy towards each other and their want for acceptance among their peers is extraordinary.  If your bratty athlete is seemingly the “ring leader” the rest of your athletes will follow.  Their acceptance among their peers is far more important than acceptance from their coach.

So how do you stop your bratty athlete?  Make an example out of her bad behavior.  This doesn’t mean you need to demean her, but it means you need to show her teammates that her behavior is inappropriate.  The best way to defuse such a situation is, unfortunately, negative reinforcement.  When I say make an example out of her, it does not mean make her run laps while the team practices or give her individual punishment, but rather make it a team effort.  If you were to make the punishment all about your bratty athlete, she will receive the attention she was looking for and still have the control she was seeking.

Here is what you can do.  Before the start of practice, tell your team that you are going to have a hard practice and give them guidelines; i.e. if one person does not hustle on and off the field, the whole team will run sprints.  Once the guidelines are given, the bar is set for everyone on the team, not just the bratty athlete.  If she does not comply with the rules, the whole teams runs.  If she continues to rebel, the whole team will eventually become irritated and disallow her behavior.  By making this a team effort, the bratty athlete is not initially segregated as the “bad apple,” but her behavior in a team activity will be exemplified to her team as troublesome.  Just like her teammates, the bratty athlete wants to be accepted and will learn that acting out is not the way to get attention.  When a female athlete’s peers disapprove, they will quickly remedy the situation until she is accepted once again.

Key Coaching Tips for the Bratty Athlete


1.) Do not get on your bratty athlete’s level!  The more she knows she can get under your skin, the more antagonizing she will be!  Remember, she seeks attention, negative or positive.


2.)  Make sure she receives the same amount of attention as all the other athletes; treating your team equally will help show her she is not any better or any less than her teammates.


3.)  Do not individualize punishment!  Rule out bad behavior by team consequences so the team as a whole will push for compliance.


  1. Sam says:

    What you you suggest when the Bratty Athlete’s negative behavior is consistently reinforced by her parents. In this specific case, the Brat is the most naturally gifted athlete on the team, and not only has a negative effect on the team, but openly disrespects her parents in the presence of other adults with no consequences. When admonished by the coach her parents take the Brat’s side.

    1. admin says:

      Hi Sam,
      That is a great question and we face/experience this from time to time. If your team consists of teenage athletes, a lot of athletes tend to have attitudes, are cocky, and can be quite arrogant. Although this can be extremely frustrating, it does happen frequently at this age group. This does not mean it cannot be fixed! If the Bratty Athlete is affecting the team as a whole, and the other athletes are vocal about the negativity, I suggest you allow the team to have a “athlete-only meeting”. Meetings like this allow the athletes to discuss issues equally without the pressure of an adult standing by; they are more likely to share their feelings and solve them amongst themselves. When your Bratty Athlete is approached by her teammates, she is more likely to fall in line because she wants to be accepted and liked, just like any other teenage girl; when she is approached by an adult, she is more likely to be disrespectful and defensive because she does not want to be told what to do.
      As far as presenting the issue to the parents, it may be an unsolved issue. Some parents can have “blinders” on when it comes to their child’s behavior and it’s extremely difficult to tell a parent how their child acts. To prevent such issues, at the beginning of the season, I suggest you create a contract where the parents and athletes have to agree and sign to the rules of your team; this way, certain parents and athletes are not singled out and it is a group effort to maintain positive conduct.
      I hope this helps and good luck! :)

  2. Penne says:

    We followed your advise. We made our “batty” athlete a captain of the “outfield”. Made it her responsibility to talk to the outfield, move the right and left field. She has not been acting out as often. She knows if there is a error in the outfield, its now her responsibility to fix it. The pressure is off the coaches. Yes, we practice outfield and backup responsibilities, etc. but during the game, we say nothing. The “captain” must deal with her crew!

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  7. Chloe says:

    I’m afraid I have to disagree with this particular post. your statement of “Now, it’s not necessarily your job to understand where the attitude comes from, but it is your job to keep her in check while she is a member on your team.” Is slightly lazy of a coach. In order to deal with the behaviour you need to know why, is it a lack of confidence? Boredom? Etc. yes you get “difficult” and “easy” children but from my years of experience the difficult kids can easily be turned around by making the activities fun, lots of positive reinforcement and giving them responsibility (as a previous poster mentioned). I would try to stay away from negative reinforcement because you are still acknowledging the bad behaviour and highlighting it to the rest of the team. My girls know that if someone is talking while I am they go for a run as a team which does stop the chatting but I think on the scale you are talking about you are not addressing the main issue.

    Please don’t take this as me having a go at your blog, I think it’s great, I just don’t agree with this particular post especially after coaching kids for years!

    1. Kelly Jackson says:

      Hi Chloe,
      Thank you for your post, we really appreciate feedback as well as differing coaching mentalities. I think we are more on the same page than you think. I agree that negative reinforcement isn’t the “go-to” method in coaching, however, it may be necessary. In the article, I address that I do not condone belittling or berating athletes, but do teach them to lead in a positive manner rather than rally around negative leadership. In my experience, not every athlete will respond to positive reinforcement like we would hope. Some athletes simply need “tough love” to learn discipline and respect. When I say that it isn’t necessarily the coaches job to understand where the attitude comes from, that all depends on the coach and their drive to know the athletes on a deeper level. I try not to address that because I don’t want to give any coach false psychological advice, as I am not a therapist. I have, however, studied children’s psychology and there is a fine line that I wouldn’t want to cross between non-relative adult and child relationships. Attitude in children can range from problems at home and abuse, to having a bad day at school and losing a game of kickball; it puts a coach in a tough position if they choose to delve into the problem deeper than their outward expression. I advise coaches to remain on the surface unless a parent seeks help with their child as well.
      I agree with you in that you have the team work together as a unit when one of them gets in trouble. I say the same thing in the article, “Here is what you can do. Before the start of practice, tell your team that you are going to have a hard practice and give them guidelines; i.e. if one person does not hustle on and off the field, the whole team will run sprints. Once the guidelines are given, the bar is set for everyone on the team, not just the bratty athlete.”
      Thank you so much for your response!! We love that your coaching is positive and addresses leadership, discipline, and team unity! We need more coaches like you in female sports! :)

  8. Mary Kate says:

    Any advice on a very talented youth basketball player ( 7th grade, girls ) having a problem with relallation on the court. Called for a foul, stomping feet, rolling eyes. Very aggressive player. Example: she was tripped by an opposing player. Instead of getting up and going down the court she turns and goes after the player like she wants to fight. Very immature. She is having a hard time knowing the difference between aggressive and bad sportsmanship. Has been warned by the officials but has not been ejected yet from a game. Very talented young lady, don’t want her attitude to hender her opportunity of becoming a very special player. Thanks for any advise….

    1. Kelly Jackson says:

      I would be happy to help your situation! We actually just uploaded a new post that may help your daughter. It’s about building confidence in an athlete but touches on the ability to transfer frustration into a positive. Also, I would say that the aggressiveness your daughter has is a positive attribute, however, her ability to control it is a necessity. We have come across many athletes with temperment issues and have found that, that emotion is the best they relate to when something bothers them. I recommend she finds another outlet to let go of frustrations that are out of her control, i.e. writing down her emotions, things that bother her daily, things that upset her. This may seem like a small thing, but writing out her feelings will help her to separate her anger that may be completely unrelated to basketball. She also has to learn what battles are good to fight, and ones that are worth walking away from. Using your example, rather than physically approaching her opponent, she could say ok, that girl that tripped me has scored 9 pts, I’m going to score 12 and show her. That makes the fight about the game rather than the athlete on a personal level. I hope this helps and please let us know if we can help you out any further!

  9. Leah says:

    I have a few girls on my JV basketball teams that refuse to hustle during practices and games. When we run sprint and do drills they are always just jogging. Even in games they will jog down the floor. No matter what I do or say they refuse to give 100%. I have seen glimpses of it, so I know they can do better. Anytime I say something to them about it, I get eyes rolled or they will just turn and walk away. How do I motivate them to get them to work harder in games and practices?

    1. Keri Casas says:

      Hi There, sorry you are having such a hard time with your team! If you can find a “ring leader”, I would target her. There is usually one girl that starts the influence, so if you isolate her, then the rest will stop. Sometimes you have to be the bad guy and give consequences for lack of hustle. If negative reinforcement isn’t working, try positive influence. Sometimes girls act out when they are insecure or embarrassed to do something; you can highlight their attributes and give them reasons to be confident to try harder!

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