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Tardy Troubles: Dealing with late players on your team

Tardy Troubles: Dealing with late players on your team


By Ker’Shyra Myrick

Volunteer coaches deal with all sorts of player-related issues during a season, and one of the most common is young athletes who are perpetually late to practices and disrupt the rhythm of the session.

Below is a question we received from a frustrated coach on this matter and we turned to Mark Cheney for his insights on the best ways to navigate this problem with a young player. Cheney is a Certified Mental Performance Consultant (CMPC) and member of the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP). He has worked for IMG Academy, consulted with the Division I teams and coached, and he started a mental conditioning program for high school students in Las Vegas.

Check out what he shared on the question below:

One of the girls on the 12-and-under softball team that I coach is always 15 to 20 minutes late for practices and games. She’s a great teammate, always encouraging everyone, and she works hard and always displays good sportsmanship. Punishing her for her parents’ inability to get her to the field on time doesn’t seem fair. But when everyone else is on time it also doesn’t seem fair that this player should get equal playing time. She’s a great kid so I’m stuck on how to handle this.

CHENEY: At some point, every coach will deal with this scenario, and there are many factors to consider. Let’s start by distinguishing between punishment and natural consequences. Punishment typically involves some type of shame or suffering (e.g. public criticism or excessive running) whereas natural consequences are simply the results of an action. For example, the health of the athlete requires a complete warmup before practicing and playing. Whether or not she’s on time, she should complete this warmup. The natural consequence of starting the warmup late may be missing an inning or two. Another consequence of arriving late is missing out on coaching and instruction. If an athlete doesn’t learn how to handle game situations because they missed that portion of practice, it is unreasonable to play them in a game where those same situations may arise.  By applying natural consequences, you maintain the relationship with the athlete while allowing her to learn from the situation.

While the question seems to indicate that the girl’s parents are responsible for her tardiness, let’s not ignore the role that she might play. Just because she is positive and encouraging does not mean that she is not also capable of being disorganized, losing track of time, or dawdling around the house. Her parents might be teaching her a lesson by allowing her to be late, thereby receiving the natural consequences. Nate Schmidt, defenseman for the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights learned this lesson the hard way, when his dad once refused to take him to practice because of his tardiness. The best way to identify responsibility is through separate conversations with the athlete and her parents that start with the reason(s) behind her tardiness.

Should the responsibility lie with her parents, there are still multiple factors to consider. The parents may have work requirements, limited transportation options, or even come from a cultural background that is not bound to the clock like Western civilization is. Of course, it could also be that the parents are the ones who are disorganized and irresponsible. Whatever the case, discuss the natural consequences of their daughter’s late arrival. Then work with them and their daughter to find solutions to the cause.

Finally, I believe the words of legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden are worth remembering, “Fairness is giving all people the treatment they earn and deserve. It doesn’t mean treating everyone alike. That’s unfair, because everyone doesn’t earn the same treatment.” Each of your players are unique individuals with their own story. Treat them as such, and keep investing in their development, not just as athletes, but as people.

You can learn more at or by following him on twitter @CoachMarkCheney

Mark Cheney Late Players Parenting Coaching

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