“Is There Such a Thing as a Coach’s Pet? 

Damn Straight There Is!”


How many times have we heard the statement “she’s the coach’s pet”, or the “coach’s favorite”? I say plenty of times! Is it a thing? Damn straight it is, but probably not in the way you think.

As a coach, I think our greatest challenge is understanding our players and what makes them tick so we can bring out the very best in them. I almost feel like I can portray 10 different alter egos in a training session or game (picture the movie “Split”), as I adapt to my players to garner the best possible outcome in their response.

Some players I can work out straight away. Others take a bit longer.

This is about the time we need a psychology degree. We cannot tar every player with the same brush. Each player is an individual, with individual circumstances and back stories, they individually respond to nurture or nature, with individual character and personality traits.

Which leads me into my affirmation that I do, indeed, and unashamedly, have “favorites”. They are not necessarily the “best” player; they are the players who give me 100% in all areas of their training. They are the players who are respectful to my requests, respectful to their team mates, yet not afraid to question me on things they are not sure of. They are the players who I know have the toughest home life, or faces challenges in everyday life but still show up; it could be at home, school or work. They are the players that could have learning difficulties that make the easiest of tasks so overwhelming. They are the players that know they are not the best, but have their own dreams and aspirations of being the best that they can be; they trust my knowledge and coaching style and believe that I will do everything I can to help them achieve. Then there are the players I simply connect with; our minds think alike and we are on the same page, whether through our netball mindset or laugh and banter.

One coach wrote an open letter about why he has favorites, and why he’s not ashamed to admit it http://coachjacksonspages.com/i-do-have-favorites-3/

I am also only human, and there have been players I have failed to understand or build rapport with. It hasn’t been for lack of trying. More often than not we just aren’t compatible. And that’s completely ok. Not every player will have a great relationship with every coach they have, and likewise not every coach will have a great relationship with every player they have. But it does not been they do not get the same attention as every other player.

I found this great article https://footballscoop.com/news/11-habits-coachs-favorite-player/ which really resonated with me. The authors talks about the 11 habits that can make a player his favourite. 

Favoritism comes in so many forms. Coaches will show it in many different ways. I still have vivid memories of this one coach, I swear she hated me. She was just at me and at me, made me do extra sprints at the end of the session (I don’t remember specifically why, but I do remember I was a bit “spirited” back then) and she often looked at me with such disdain I wondered why she ever picked me to be on the team. We went away to our tournament, I don’t recall ever coming off the court, but I also don’t recall getting any positive feedback either; oh man, that woman was so mean! But I was not going to let her break me……  After it was all done and dusted, she said some things to me I will never forget. She said the moment your coach stops talking to you (negative or positive) is the day she no longer cares. She also explained that a coach sometimes needs to push a player to the point of breaking; it is a test of character. This coach knew what I was made of, she just needed me to see it for myself. That was a turning point for me, it hit me that she didn’t hate me, she understood me. 

Understanding players is key. There are the ones that will respond to the barking and the pushing; others we need to use our inside voices and constantly give them positive affirmation. Then there are the players who sit somewhere in the middle happy to take the positive feedback and work with the constructive. Unfortunately my face and what I am thinking is very transparent; the girls only need to take one look to know the next few minutes will unfold. There are the players I know will be ok with the unhappy face and go about rectification; then there are the players I will have to give a little smile or a nod to let them know its ok, but they still know they need to go about their business. At the end of the day, if I don’t handle my players how they need to be handled, I am not going to get what I need out of them on court. It’s all a learning process, and whilst we can loosely categorize personalities by the different tests based on learning styles, every person is unique, with a unique personality, unique personal situation and unique response to their coach.

And just to make it crystal clear…..I have MANY favorites! Every player that crosses my path, I have some sort of connection with. They are unique and special in their own way, and I am privileged to be even just a small part of their life journey.