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Five Ways To Deal With Angry Players

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Alexis Sanchez

One of the major talking points in what has been a turbulent season for Arsenal was Alexis Sanchez’s controversial omission from the starting line-up for the tepid 3-1 defeat at Liverpool.

Gunners boss Arsene Wenger claimed he left his best player out because he wanted to play more ‘direct’ football.

It later emerged that there had been a training ground bust-up involving Sanchez, and despite Wenger’s denials, it seems clear that he dropped the Chilean to the bench for disciplinary, rather than tactical, reasons. Wenger was attempting to take a stand.

An angry player can be problematic for a coach, but here are five considerations when confronted by a suspect temperament.

1. Anger can be a driving force

Remember Wenger’s great Arsenal teams of the late 1990s and early 2000s? Remember Martin Keown, Tony Adams, Patrick Vieira? They all had that fire in their belly. Arsenal have not won a league title since Vieira left in 2005. Have Manchester United ever been quite the same after Roy Keane left? No. Teams need players with that added bite and they can have a galvanising effect on those around them.

2. Direct their anger

Anger can be channelled positively. Attempt to direct the player away from whatever is winding them up and into pressurising the opposition, driving the team forward and encouraging their team-mates. Anger doesn’t have to result in a negative outcome.

3. Take the player to one side

Have there been some questionable challenges in training? Have the opposition been feeling the full force of your player’s anger in recent matches? It may be time to take the individual to one side to remind him of his responsibilities. Explain that while winning and competing properly is important, team-mate and opposition safety is paramount. Ask the player to explain their anger, and remind them of their responsibilities to the club.

4. Talk to the parents

If your friendly chat has failed to have an impact, arrange a meeting with the player’s parents. Perhaps there are problems at home or at school which could explain the on-field anger. As a coach, it is not up to you to resolve these issues, but, depending on the relationship you have with the parents, you may be able to lend advice. They should also be warned that your number one priority must be the safety of your players and the opposition, and that the displays of anger must stop.

5. Last resort: suspend the player

It’s not what anyone wants to see, particularly at youth level, but sometimes a coach is left with no choice. You’ve tried channelling the anger. You’ve taken your player to one side. You’ve spoken to the parents. If none has worked and you feel that keeping her around the squad is detrimental, suspension is your only option. The chances are they will soon be begging you for a reprieve as they miss playing the sport they love competitively. Sometimes a period in the ‘sin bin’ can be exactly what a player needs to understand where the line is in terms of what is acceptable and unacceptable anger.

How do you deal with angry players? I’d be interested to hear your experiences. Please share them by leaving a comment.

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Comments (2)


I believe this is very person specific and I agree that anger can be used positively. Individuals use anger to help them reach their optimal arousal levels which helps in relation to performance. However if this becomes too much it is easy for the athlete or players performance to suffer and they lose focus on the task in hand.

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I believe "fire and desire" to be very different from "anger" ... "fire and desire" can give you an edge whereas "anger" can have the opposite effect.

I ask the players I coach not to get angry with self or others as that level of emotional arousal can divert focus and energy away from optimum performance: not only is anger a mental distraction which promotes negative thinking, it has detrimental physical effects (muscle tension, increased heart rate and increased breathing) which can hijack the normal physiological/hormonal responses required for that optimum performance.

I aim to provide players with some coping skills/techniques - e.g. progressive relaxation, deep breathing, imagery - all of which can be used to deal with anxiety as well as anger.

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