Disciplining for misbehaviour during practice?

Disciplining for misbehaviour during practice?

Disciplining for misbehaviour? 8-11 year olds, they dont really get bored because i know that sometimes that can be the cause. How or what can i apply a bit of strictness into the team.

Football CoachCoach
Ian MarshCoach, England

What sort of problems in particular are you experiencing at your trainings?

I think discipline is essential at all levels although obviously when dealing with younger players you have to handle things more delicately.

I'd suggest before your next session sitting down with your players and laying down some ground rules, explaining that if you're making rules it's only so for their benefit and possibly even creating a sort of Team Contract which all players have to take home, read with their parents and then sign. Nothing too serious in there but simple rules like if you don't turn up to training and don't ring in advance to say that you won't be attending you won't be in the starting team for the weekend match.

Look forward to seeing other people's views and ideas.


Ian MarshCoach, England

Hi again Arnis,

After having discussed your question with some other coaches last night I thought it might be worth trying to approach this problem from another angle.

It may well be that because of the age of your players, like you mentioned, they're not misbehaving because they're bored at training but instead they're in the middle of a learning curve, learning how to work as a team and not always be the centre of attention.

With children in the 9-11 year old bracket often they're learning how to share (and pass the ball). However, another feature at this age is that children have short attention spans, want everything to be fair and will naturally begin to question authority figures - not necessarily to try and be naughty at trainings but simply because they're inquisitive and are seeking clarification on why they're doing what they're doing at training.

Having just searched myself I can tell you that there's a lot of information about the personality characteristics of children at this age on the internet.

However, as long as you structure your sessions with this in mind and try to give positive feedback as often as possible (although I know this can get a bit annoying when some players show-off a lot during training) I'm sure you'll be able to get some structure into your sessions and see some good results.

Hope this helps and good luck.


Football CoachCoach

Thank you very much. It was a really helpful respoonse.

Football CoachCoach

This is something which has arised in my team due to the disruptive behavior that one of my players has, due to having ADHD which is extremely difficult to tackle, i have been putting him to the side when he misbehaves but i am feeling that this is neither benifiting him or educating him, if anyone has any ideas on how to tackle this due to having delt with this problem before i'd be glad to get some help on the issue

Football CoachCoach

What i have done which works is to make the playerzs who AREN'T misbehaving to do the punishments. The players messing on just stand waiting for their team mates to come back. If they continue to misbehave the good ones keep having to run and eventually the players who aren't misbehaving then give out the stick to the misbehaving players to stop messing about. By getting it from all their team mates quickly sorts them out. Or the players get bored of not doing any football and just standing around! It sounds a bit unorthodox but it works %3A)

Football CoachCoach

jamie, i have worked with kids from as young as 12 up to adult level, the area in which ur talkin about ie ADHD, i have found that if u give this child a particular job to do, ie, look after the balls, hand out the bibs, pick up the cones, u usually find this keeps there mind focused on something and involved with the group, disciplining or singling out some1 with ADHD can sometimes make the situation worse and then u spend ur time dealing with 1 person rather than the group, as was said punishing the whole group is a good way for kids to realise its a team thing.

Football CoachCoach

hello ... behaviors that are punished have a tendency to be avoided while behaviors that are rewarded tend to be repeated! In the case of children when they do not bind to anything we say or when they do not want to play with colleagues, try to put it to play alone in a corner, I guarantee you she will be willing to go back to training seriously. Very important in children who are still in psychosocial development, is giving many positive feedbacks so that they do not discourages, exercises more focused on dribbling, 1v1, formal games in ages from 7 to 12, usually have very positive reception by children. From an early age children should start having discipline, never exaggerate the authoritative discourse, we constantly talk with them individually rather than in groups, so that she can understand what behavior is more correct to have, without influence of other team mates. I hope this can help you.

Football CoachCoach

nice and simple but effective - what I do is whenever one or more players start showing ill-discipline I get ALL the players to go on a timed run i.e 10seconds to reach the byline and back ,if they don't they go again 'ofcourse the timing depends on the response shown by players i.e you count at you're rate - a couple of these runs soon turns the heroes into zeros . . .

Football CoachCoach

I set up a shuttle drill to the side of the training area. The players soon learn what it is for. The misbehaving player is removed from the team environment and told to run shuttles on thier own with a ball until they are asked to return to the team. This is effective and productive. It is boring but they are using thier skills and improving fitness. It works!!!!

Football CoachCoach

I set up a shuttle drill to the side of the training area. The players soon learn what it is for. The misbehaving player is removed from the team environment and told to run shuttles on thier own with a ball until they are asked to return to the team. This is effective and productive. It is boring but they are using thier skills and improving fitness. It works!!!!

Football CoachCoach

I run an under 10's team and have 3 or 4 disruptive lads in there. If i am explaining a drill to them and they talk whilst im talking then i stay quiet until they stop talking. When they stop then i carry on talking, the lads that want to get on with the drills and play football soon get bored of the disruptive lads talking and tell them to be quiet. I also have lads that don't put their full effort into drills and games and spoil it for the others that want to learn, in this case i tell the lad to go sit out at the side of the pitch for a few minutes and tell him if he carries on misbehaving then he won't be playing in the weekends match. I like the idea of the shuttle drill at the side of the pitch, i think i'll try that one too thanks

Football CoachCoach

discipline or boredom, if i am talking to the team before/after a drill i make sure the balls are either in their hands or in the goal, thats stops them distracting others or me, if they are mucking around i let them get on with and just chalk off their game time at the end of the session, if its really bad disruptive behaviour, i stop ball work and goto fitness, or just plain boring running around the pitch, as one of the other coaches said, the ones who wnat to learn will soon have words with the disruptive ones, nobody likes runnig around a pitch.

Football CoachCoach

I have just become the manager for an under 10's team, like others I do not punish the individual I punish the group!! We also start our training sessions off with no balls being used, the boys now know that if they want to train with the balls then they have to, listen to and follow the instructions given to them.

Football CoachCoach

I coach 8 - 9 year olds who at the beginning of the season did exactly what has been mentioned with ill discipline. Utilising all of the above techniques it took about five training sessions but has worked wonders and I have not had a single problem with them since. I have used%3A Punish the team not the individual who is misbehaving it works really well, the extra drills on the side of the pitch are great espically physical ones using the agility ladder and small hurdle arcs they soon get tired.

Due to coaches availability I have recently had the 7 - 8 year olds tagged on to my sessions for a few weeks and you can really see the difference. It is now funny how 8 - 9 year olds are the ones keeping the younger ones in check.

Football CoachCoach

Some great responses to this already but it does all come down to having a set of ground rules which everyone is aware of right from the start. My side has now reached Under 15 but at the beginning of every season we have a 10 minute session reaffirming the rules. That said it's one thing having a set of rules but if you do then you must enforce them and enforce them consistently. I tell the boys that they are here for just x amount of time each week and to ensure that the time is used productively then they have to get on with it. Rules (in no particular order)

  • 1) Correct attire (shin pads must be worn or no training)
  • 2) NO bad language
  • 3) When I am speaking then I expect them to be listening
  • 4) If they are speaking then I stop speaking until I have silence
  • 5) If I don't get silence then they ALL go for a run
  • 6) If the players all have a ball for a drill then it should be in their hands until the drills commence
  • 7) if they consistently don't comply then they are off - the rest of the group shouldn't suffer for an individual's inability to conform.

Football CoachCoach


I coach an U15 team in Australia and we are now getting to the pointy (finals) end of the season.

I am really experiencing some bad behaviour and attitudes from about 4 or 5 of the players and am intending to 'lay it all on the line' tomorrow at training.

I appreciate these boys are experiencing hormonal changes, peer pressure and just the norms of boys of this age... however I am really at my wits end as to what to do to manage their%3A disrespect (of each other, me, referees), self-focus, rudeness and bad behaviour. 

The sad thing that is really coming out of this too is that we were the leaders of the competition, with the title of 'Minor Premiers' only a few weeks away and now with their inability to remain focused we have now been challenged and are sharing top place on the ladder.  I find this really hard on the boys who are committed, respectful and trying their best to stay focused on our target.

I would really appreciate any strategies you can offer as I'm almost ready to walk away.



Football CoachCoach

I run an U12 team, all just started secondary school and hormones are all over the place. I have 15 in the squad and can probably say that 7 listen to me and me only, the other 8 are constantly talking about school, girlfriends, Xbox etc etc so because these 8 are not doing as they're told the whole team gets disciplined and you can see the ones that are keen to learn have a go at the others and its started to take hold now where a majority are now doing what I am telling them to do and get on with drills etc. Punishment wise, they either go on a run around the field, do cicuit training or they dont play a match at the end of training. I run a 90 minute training session on a Weds night and the first question I get is " Are we playing a match at the end ? " Simple answer is....... Depends on the team and how we get on.

Football CoachCoach

I am new to an u12s team and we had this problem early on- we sent an email out to the parents asking for their support ( all of them offered support and prefered us to discipline their child if they were misbehaving) We then at the next training session sat all the boys down and explained we'd spoken to their parents,whoy have paid their subs fees and registration forms and also reminded them we put work into planning the session so we can become a good team.

Like one of the guys above said I just stop talking when boys talk over me- if any of the other lot complain I tell them to discuss with the boys who are talking- it soon sorts itself out.

Finally you could simply say the team for the match is based on behaviour at trainign and willingness to learn- that should within a few weeks sort things out

Football CoachCoach

I have coached adult U18, U16 U15 all the way down to U8. The current set of U8 are hard work but I find my coaching style has to change with the younger age groups. I find by being a lot more autocratic and raising my voice  at things they tend to pay attention. However in the same raised voice I also praise them when they do well. This then lets them know that that voice can also be a source of praise and a source of chastisment. I tend to keep my sessions very quick  through the practices as the attention span for the U8 is very short and you have to keep them entertained and make it fun. If the behavior is particularly bad then I set aside a sin bin with some ground markers in which they must sit for the number of minutes that is their age i.e 6 year old is 6 minutes etc. I find this works quite well and I have used this practice for a number of years at this age group

Football CoachCoach

I have a U10 & U11 Team,  I have had the team since they were U6.  My best skilled players and not listening to me in practice.   One of the players told me you are the fake coach we want the real coach.   It goes on and and.   I resigned from the team.  last week and now the parents are calling me wanting me to return?  Who do i control these boy players that are out of control.   Also they are the leader of the team on the field.

Football CoachCoach

hi, i coach an under 14's team and have done so for the last 2 years before me there was another manager who let them get away  with murder for years. in pre season training i took them into the woods for a bit of military style fitness and discipline, i found the steepest hill for them to run up and down, piggy back races up, i also took a punch bag and let them get in to 3s or 4s and carry the bag up and down the hill in timed races. any cheek of any one and they go again and again.use sit ups n press up or sprints as punishments. in training send them all running around the field each time someone back chats you or doesn't listen, if you send everyone other players will turn on them when they get fed up and make them towe the line. this does work some of my lads are from the roughest area near where we live, they have no discipline at home or school. dont show any weakness and dont back down and reward them every so often. good luck

Dave HallCoach, Australia

I have coached for a several years and our club has a 3 strike rule policy.

I normally explain this clearly to the parents and children on the first nights training at the begining of the season. This way everyone understands what the rules are.

Strike 1. A warning is given to the child who is misbehaving.

Strike 2. The child is told to sit next to there parent for 10mins and explain to them why they are sitting there. If there parent is not there they sit next to the Manager.

Strike 3. The child is told to go home as he is wasting my time, his time and the other kids time.

This seems to work for me as I haven't normally gone past the second strike.

Hope this helps and good luck!!!

Football CoachCoach

The way I have tackled this problem is to give all the players set game time for the second half of training i.e. 25 mins.

Every time a player is seen or heard being ill disciplined then 2 minutes comes off the time. Now if there are lots of situations then you may only have 6/8 minutes for the match in which case the match is cancelled (and you MUST be strong enough to carry this out). This means that instead of punishing one player, ALL the players are losing out. Yes you can also use the threat of non playing in the next league matche but in reality, most coaches cave in on match days because the usual suspects are often the better players.

With younger ones I use what I call MAGIC THUMB (an Idea I stole from the Brownies Movement. I get all the kids togehter before practice and show them a 'Thumbs Up' sign. I tell the players that whenever I show this sign I want ALL the players to copy me. The last player to do so MUST be the one NOT paying attention and that if they are the last to copy the Thumbs Up sign twice they must collect all the cones, balls, bibs and any other equipment at the end of practice. When you give this Thumbs Up, you mustnt say a single word - just stand and wait. They WILL respond and even the other players will tell them!!.

For the little 'angel' that deliberately doesnt copy you because they want to show off, explain WHY its called the Magic Thumb. Its called the Magic Thumb because thats telling you, the coach, that they are ready to play in the match and as they havent given you that sign then they CAN'T play ...and DO IT. Don't give in just because they say sorry. You only have to do this once and all get the message.


ScottCoach, England


I have read the many responses to your question, and would like to say a couple of things. First, never associate discipline/punishment with exercise. I don't care what other coaches say about it working, players should not be made to run or exercise as a disciplinary consequence. You do not want your players to associate fitness, or exercise with discipline. You do not want them to think that exercise, running, fitness, etc is a bad thing, nor associate it with something they have done wrong.

If a player, or players, are being disruptive, you need to find out why? Is this something they are doing practice after practice, and if so is there a reason behind it. Do they do the same in school? You need to approach this issue delicately with parents, and if you have a link to their school ask the question there, but be cautious. Parents don't like to find out a coaches has been asking questions in school about their child's behaviour. If you are dealing with ADD or similar, then this is very different from a player who is just being disruptive. My suggestion is simple, though%3A just sit the player out of the activity. Players don't want to be left out of any drill, and will quickly be asking to get involved again. Tell them the reason they are sitting out, make it short, and see if it works. If it happens again, sit them out for longer, and see how that goes. If it continues to happen, then perhaps suspend them from practice, but only after several warnings and after warning the parents that this will be your next course of action. You can also always sit them out a drill that you are doing later that they really like, and even sit them out of part or all of a game. Remembering again to advise the parents in advance so that they also know why you are doing what you are doing. If it is clearly a player that cannot help himself, then you have to decide how to deal with tha, and without suggesting to the parents that there are things they should be doing, you have a difficult task for which you will have to find creative solution(s). But please avoid punishment/exercise as an answer to the problem.

Football CoachCoach

I had this with my U12s moving up into U13s this season with many going through mental and physical changes. I approached it with some of the points of when the coach is talking waiting before you continue wait until the players are listening. But the big thing was Whole Part Whole practise which i took from Youth Module 3. Start with a game with a condition ie try to play forward and then do a practise related to the first game and then go back to a game. So you get any built up energy out  and then you focus them and back to a game certainly seemed to work for me. The players have really done well over the last two months with this approach playing better as a team. I may change it just to add to the mix but has made a real difference.

Football CoachCoach

I have always had issues with certain players in my under 13's team, not bad lads but too easily distracted. One particular lad ALWAYS has an answer back for everything, shame cos the kid is very gifted athletically, and could be an excellent footballer with the right approach.

After a chat with my dad (ex army corporal, former boxer) about the situation, he said one thing that intrigued me, "never underestimate the power of embarassment". Now, im not a drill instructor, i tend to take the laisse faire approach to my coaching, but I thought it was worth a shot. So, everytime i was interrupted by this kid during the next session, I told him to do a forfeit, burpees or the like. However this didnt really have the desired effect. So i hit up the old fellow again, and he suggested that instead of getting the kid causing the bother to perform the forfeit, the entire team must do it, apart from the trouble maker. 

I was stunned with how effective this was - the team was not pleased with him for misbehaving, and i used the time that they were performing the forfeit to explain to the troublemaker why it was unfair on everyone else to keep being disruptive (keeping others from learning, messing with my time management, but most of all just plain rude). After the forfeit i had him apologise to the others, who forgave him.

I use this with any player being disruptive, and have found it to be super effective. A little unorthodox but effective. Usually, if a player misbehaves once, they dont do it again for the rest of the session.

Hope this helps.

Football CoachCoach

I'm dealing with the same thing here in Canada with our BU13s - one or two always off at each session, and they tend to drag some others.  And, yes, most of them are skill players.

Wondering about this solution:  Consider that these players are proud, good footballers, and at 13, they are all beginning to establish their 'place' in groups - including teams, school, family, etc - and the ego is maturing. 

They enjoy being the centre of attention many of them, and they get credibility in large part because they are good at this game:  this is something they can do, and they do it tolerably well.

So, what is it that skill players wish to do?  More than anything, I think we'd agree they wish to play.  You take that away and they'll do ANYTHING to get it back, even shut-up, focus and behave.

"...Congratulations [name].  You've disrupted a 10% of our training tonight laddie, and you took three of your mates with you in that distraction.  My maths tell me that you will sit 30% of the next match...."  It follows Kevin's example above in this way.

Also, I whole-heartedly agree:   Exercise - laps, burpees, whatever - should not be a punishment.  Pehaps a quick 25 m sprint to remind that 'we're not focused - go out to half and back, and let's re-focus - GO!!", should be a response, but sending them on a tour of the playing fields... no.  Wrong impression.  Wrong attitudes develop towards general fitness.  My view of that run is different.  EVERY session, we start with a course, a set route they all must follow.  It is timed.  It's different each session.  Sometimes a track, sometimes with stairs, sometimes around the fields, sometimes laps.  But they all run the same, they all finish.  And I post the times weekly.  It's competitive and the leader board is changing and ALL are improving in general fitness.  I find this helps and so turning something like this into a punishment wouldn't help my side.

My thought takes the exercise (playing time) AWAY from the little miscreant.  The boys tend to sort it among themselves quickly after results suffer.

Football CoachCoach

I coach an U12's side, and have had issues with behaviour, especially midweek training, when they all meet up and for the first 10 mins it can sound like a gaggle of geese!

We have various ways of reducing their 'unruly' behaviour.

a) We set up a cone approx 60 metres from the training area, they are told to run when they misbehave. It has taken 4 sessions for them to work out what happens and this has vastly reduced the misbehaviour. Peer pressure works ok but you have to watch out what can be misconstured as 'bullying'. We now get them running to the cone when they are behaving excellently just to remind them, it works a treat.

When we through the drill session at the start we ask them to adhere to the following:

  • Not to speak whilst the coaches are speaking
  • Not to kick bounce or fidget with footballs whilst the coaches are speaking.

We also ask the team members what have they been upto since the last training session, we do this as a group 5 mins before we start the training session, this works well as it gets all the banter & jokes out the way.

Many of the team are entering or going through puberty and some of their personalities are starting to change, I always ask if everything is ok and set individual goals for that particular player(s) for the training session and the following match, in doing so I find that their focus is beeter placed on their football.

I have an age group where it is a little easier to inject discipline into their football 'routine'.  For those coaches that are at thier wits end I would call in all the parents and tell them what you as the coach expect from their kids in respect to commitment and discipline, if the misbehaviour continues then expulsion is the likely way forward.

If the coach walks away, then it is the commited kids who suffer!

Volda FotballCoach, England

Having coached for many years and work as a PE teacher at an inner London school, I have seen my fair share of disruptive behaviour! Just a couple of points to add to the above%3A

  • I do not agree with making the WHOLE group punishments. Yes its a team sport and must take responsibility as a group however, you may be demoralising those who do behave. This could have a negative affect on those who want to behave.
  • Try not to have running as a punishment. Running and sprinting is a natural part of football (soccer) therefore what you are showing is that running is not fun and is given to them if they misbehave. You want them to enjoy the running as much as they can.

How to overcome this?

  • Give the disruptive player a different role, e.g. observer or analyst from the side. Or even another coach to help you. You are temporarily taking away something they like but keeping in constructive and keeping them involved, rather than just sitting out.
  • Speak to the parents. Many will be on board with you! Although good luck with the ones that are not!

From experience this works. I have a group of 16 year olds who i am lucky to have much respect from. For example, on tour last year, I had asked the players to be back at their dorms for 8%3A30pm, me and the coach were elsewhere. We arrived back at 8%3A00pm to find they were all back becuase they did not want to be late.

This process takes time, but when you lay down the laws with them, they respect that more. Kids respect having boundaries, and will also respect you more for it.

Namebutler Coach, Canada

I've tried this simple trick when explaining drills to different groups. Works best with really young groups.


Butt On Ball-they need to sit on their ball and the coach should also when talking. You're roughly on the same level (eye level). I still have to deal with talking among the group but at least they are not kicking the ball about.

Andy crispCoach, England

Ive just started helping with an under 8s team, as above but we get the boys/and girl to put the ball above their heads when we are talking, this gets the pushing and shoving out of the way.

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