Q&A: When Do You Bench a Player for Bad Behavior?

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Q. A player on my daughter’s all-girls team engages in “mean girl” behavior, including telling other girls they are fat, giving them cheap shots during practice and tossing their hats/gloves in puddles in the parking lot. She is also the leading scorer and we’re heading into the playoffs. Should the coach bench her?

A. “As coaches, the biggest carrot we have is playtime,” says experienced hockey director and coach Angelo Ricci. “They’re kids so we can’t fine them and suspension is a last resort.” The key to using playtime to help control behavior is to establish all the rules up-front in a preseason meeting. Then, it’s up to the coach to hold everyone accountable and enforce the rules in a fair and consistent manner, says Ricci. “If you favor kids or change the rules midseason, you lose respect in the locker room.”

In particular, Ricci emphasizes that the behavior of repeat offenders needs to be addressed with playtime. While he admits that some coaches turn a blind eye to behavior when they shouldn’t, the philosophy remains the same: It doesn’t matter what game it is. If a coach determines that a player needs to be benched for a portion of a game, it doesn’t matter if it’s the first game of the season or the last. After all, Ricci says, “Would you let your kid steal a $1 candy bar but not $50 headphones? It’s the same crime.”

Editor’s Note: Thank you to Angelo Ricci for sharing his 15 years of expertise as a hockey director in this article. Ricci is founder, head instructor and consultant for Ricci Hockey Consulting. With 20+ years experience as a skills and stickhandling coach, he conducts/oversees more than 40 programs year-round that develop over 1,000 players each year.

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