How to Deal with a Difficult Basketball Coach

As an athlete there are times when you may think that you know it all and need no one else’s input or guidance.

That is what makes sports such fun, because of the creative freedom that they enable us to have.

However, there are also moments where great conflicts occur.

Sports conflict occurs in many forms.

There are disagreements on strategy, tactics, effort levels, etc., which often result in heated discussions between teammates.

With basketball in particular, players can sometimes get into verbal arguments with their coaches.

And it’s not always easy to resolve such disputes, perhaps because of a clash of personalities that makes open communication between the two parties difficult.

But the good news is there are certain things that players can do to deal with basketball coaches who are a tad too difficult to reason with.

Read on to find out more.

How do you deal with a bad basketball coach?

No one ever said playing this sport would be easy!

In fact, basketball is pretty difficult to play because there are so many different things that players have to navigate.

When dealing with potential conflicts within teams, here are some tips for resolving issues and moving forward together towards achieving common goals.

1. Don’t take your coaches feedback personally

how to deal with a difficult basketball coach - do not take feedback personally

Basketball coaches yell for good reason!

It is important to remember that even though someone may seem rude or mean-spirited, they could still be right.

It takes time to build relationships and people sometimes say things without thinking about their impact.

When this happens, remind yourself of the bigger picture by asking questions like “What does he really want?” or “Why did she just say that?”

You don’t necessarily have control over everything said, but if someone says something hurtful, take responsibility for responding appropriately rather than letting emotions get ahead of rationality.

Remember that everyone has different perspectives, beliefs and values and therefore no two situations will ever be exactly alike.

What matters most is whether you respond constructively.

If you do feel threatened by comments made against you, consider seeking professional support.

If you find that a coach has been disrespectful to others on your team, it might be helpful to talk to them privately and ask for suggestions on how to handle future similar confrontations.

A good rule of thumb is to avoid confrontation whenever possible.

Communication breakdowns happen because both parties were unable to openly speak up about feelings and concerns.

2. Communicate with your coach respectfully

Communication breakdowns occur when neither party speaks up about their true thoughts and opinions.

You should try to communicate directly with your coach to address any problems or frustrations you may experience while playing under him/her.

By doing this, you’ll give your coach a chance to explain his point of view and let you make informed decisions regarding your approach to play.

Remember to keep conversations focused on the topic at hand instead of venting personal grievances.

Try to avoid bringing up past events unless asked specifically.

Do not bring up previous instances of disrespect toward you or others on the team.

While these experiences may provide valuable information on improving teamwork, discussing them publicly can create unnecessary drama.

Focus only on present circumstances, especially those related to performance.

Your coach may be able to offer insight into strategies or techniques that would benefit your game.

He/she may suggest specific plays or substitutions based on her observations of your abilities and tendencies.

Your coach may also recommend changes to your pregame routine to accommodate new demands placed upon you due to injury.

Always listen to your coach’s recommendations with care, understanding, and respect.

3. Avoid talking to the coach during stressful periods

how to deal with a difficult basketball coach - avoid conflict during stressful periods

Avoid making direct contact with your coach when you’re experiencing high anxiety.

The last thing you want to do is add fuel to the fire by giving your coach more reasons to yell at you.

Instead, focus on taking deep breaths and relaxing until you’re calm again.

When you return to practice, come prepared with solutions to prevent further escalation.

For example, if you notice your opponent slowing down defensively, simply tell your fellow teammates “I’m going after the ball.”

They may not agree, but you won’t have another opportunity later in the drill to discuss your concern.

The same goes for post-practice meetings. As previously mentioned, avoid confronting your coach face-to-face when angry.

Come prepared with concrete ideas on solving problem areas, and request a meeting with your coach outside the presence of others.

4. Listen to your coach’s advice attentively

how to deal with a difficult basketball coach - listen attentively

Athletes tend to become accustomed to speaking first and listening second.

Even though this habit serves us well in everyday life, it becomes detrimental during conflict situations.

Basketball athletes who are quick to judge may miss out on learning opportunities offered by their coaches.

Before dismissing a comment completely, consider its merits before immediately rejecting it. Ask yourself, “Is my initial reaction justified?”

In order to understand what your coach wants, you must first hear him out.

Pay attention to your coach’s body language and pay close attention to nonverbal cues (facial expressions, gestures).

Use your intuition to figure out what he means.

Take notes throughout the conversation if necessary.

Some coaches use index cards to jot down key points.

Others prefer using paper and pen, highlighting and annotating pertinent parts of the discussion.

Whatever method works best for you, just make sure you write down every idea presented to you.

This way you’ll leave the session better equipped to tackle the next challenge.

Before moving on to the next section, here is some detailed video footage that offers a bunch of useful tips for dealing with difficult coaches in sports:

Perhaps you can pick out a useful thing or two from it!

How do you know if a basketball coach is bad?

Often there are some tell tale signs that will reveal to you whether a coach is naturally difficult to get along with.

Here are some of those clues…


One of the biggest giveaways that a basketball coach is difficult to work with is how they treat other team members.

If they don’t reward hard work on the court and favor certain players by handing out more game time or recognition, then that’s as good of an indication as any that you’ll be in for a tough time.

Poor anger management

A good coach will rarely, if ever, let their anger get the best of them.

If your coach is prone to having really aggressive verbal outbursts then you’ll need to tread carefully when you approach them.

Of course, the argument can be made that criticism is part and parcel of the game, as well as the fact that feedback from coaches can sometimes be handed out harshly.

But that doesn’t mean a coach should consistently let their anger out on certain players or disrespect team members in front of their colleagues, as everyone who steps out onto the court is trying their level best.

Disregard for wellbeing of players

The physical, mental and emotional well-being of players should be a basketball coaches’ core priorities.

Coaches are not only expected to drill out tactical instructions and supervise training sessions, as they should also be able to offer guidance and comfort for players.

You can tell a poor coach by just noting how attentive they are to their player’s physical and emotional states.

Facilitate a culture of bullying amongst players

Lastly, a good coach will know how to deal with players who bully their team mates.

They would nip such behavior in the bud as soon as it surfaced, and they’d offer a helping hand to players who were on the receiving end.


Ultimately, even if you have a basketball coach who you would describe as being “bad”, there are ways in which you can work around that to the betterment of yourself and the team you represent.

Sports conflict doesn’t have to be entirely negative either.

In fact, constructive criticism can help us grow and develop our own skillsets, as this happens through open communication among team members and having a willingness to hear what other people have to say, even if you don’t agree with them.

About Samuel Waihenya

Samuel is an avid fan of basketball and has been following the sport for over 10 years. He now intends to dedicate his time to produce great content for his own little basketball blog that aims to help its readership with whatever basketball-related topic they can think of. Have a read through Samuel Waihenya's author bio page here.