There Is No Crying In Volleyball

This article and other helpful coaching tools can be found at Coach Dawn Writes

By Dawn Redd-Kelly, Head Volleyball Coach at Beloit College.

Here is Pet Peeve #249:  players that cry in practice.  You’re probably thinking, “oh Dawn, you’re so heartless, sometimes there’s a good reason for crying…stop being so mean!”  In my mind though, there’s never a reason to put self before team and that’s exactly what crying in practice or a game does.  Now, I’m not talking about tears that are the result of an injury or yay-we-just-won-the-championship tears…those are both acceptable reasons for crying in sports.  I’m talking about the tears that stem from frustration, anger, or just plain lack of knowledge as to how one’s behavior affects others.  Let’s look at why I have such a strong opinion about crying and what you should do when faced with a crier in practice.

4 Reasons Why Tears Aren’t The Answer

1.       It’s selfish. When a player cries in a practice or game, they’re saying that their interests are more important than the team’s…plain and simple.

2.       It’s distracting. When there’s a player that cries, the team and coach have a decision to make:  do we attend to the emotional player or do we get work done here at practice or our game?  That’s not fair!  Their teammates shouldn’t have to debate whether they’re being awful people just because they want to focus on the task at hand.

3.       It shows lack of respect. The crier doesn’t respect the work that the coach has put into practice planning, because we’ve got a time schedule to keep.  They don’t respect their teammate’s focus or desire to get better at practice.  And in turn, if it’s not nipped in the bud, the crier could lose the respect of their coach and teammates.

4.       It shows lack of control. There’s no age that’s too young to start teaching our athletes how to manage their emotions.  After all, isn’t that the beauty of sports?  They’ll learn how to win and lose with grace, how to earn or lose a starting spot, and how to succeed and fail in front of others…it’s great!  It’s also our job as their coaches to teach them how to handle life’s ups and downs without it negatively impacting the lives of others.

So You’ve Got A Crier…Now What?

1.       Explain the points above. If you don’t explain those things, they’ll just think you’re being mean…which could spawn more tears (*sigh*) and an exponentially higher level of frustration for you as their coach.  They need to understand that those four things above are contrary to any sort of team success and because of that, you can’t let it slide.

2.       Acknowledge whatever their situation is. Their boyfriend broke up with them, they failed a huge test, they’re playing at an amazingly awful level…whatever it is, you get it, right?  You understand why they’d want to cry, why they’re frustrated, and why they feel like they can’t handle it anymore.  You get it…you just won’t tolerate it, because you and the team still have work to do.

3.       Remind them that they’ve got a mouth. They’ve got to use their words.  You’re a reasonable human being, right coach?  If they came to you with a legitimate problem or concern, you’d listen and the two of you would work it out together, right?  Let them know that you’ll be there for them…but only when they can behave like an adult.  You love them and care for them, but poor behavior is poor behavior and it’s not to be tolerated.

4.       Give them a break. Sometimes the crier can get themselves together and refocus.  Sometimes they can’t and you might have to give them a break.  But it’s got to be legit…you can’t hold it against them!  You can’t say on one hand: come to me like an adult and I’ll listen and we’ll work it out…and then when the crier tells you the problem, you yell or scream or are just generally pissed.  Maybe you allow them finish practice with the understanding that they’re going to be terrible, or maybe you send them home knowing that they’ll be better the next day.

So there you are folks, this is a tough one for a lot of coaches…tears are powerful and disarming.  But stand your ground and turn the situation into a teachable moment


Are you tired of walking into practice and seeing lackluster effort from your players?  Have you had it with trying to get your female athletes to care about the team as much as you do??

Click here to find out more about Coach Dawn’s eBook: Motivating Female Athletes

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One Comment

  • Ali Pattison says:

    I see where the writer is coming from and believe that crying consistently can be a way to drag the team down. At the same time, addressing crying as “selfish” to the athlete can be a traumatic and damaging experience for the psyche of an athlete. I do not write to attack the article at all! My tone is coming from a place of my own experiences as a serious club volleyball player/college athlete. I was very good at “managing” my emotions by keeping them inside. I was told from a young age not to cry and “act like an adult”. However, now I have learned from working with sports psychologists and therapists later in life, that those phrases were unhealthy as it caused me to stuff my emotions and carry them around with me.

    I am wondering if as a culture, we can move away from being “tough” and valuing only good emotions. The truth is that negative emotions need to come out just like our positive emotions do.

    It is also important to recognize that some athletes have never been taught by their parents to “just act like adults”. As coaches, we have an opportunity to be a safe place for athletes who are in negative home lives and have no idea how to manage their emotions. This could be the greatest impact we make on athletes.

    All this to say, I see where the writer of this article is encouraging coaches to ask questions and be there for the athlete. However, pointing to crying as a negative emotion can be really dangerous for athletes, especially if they already have no safe space to express their emotions. Looking at the bigger picture- how crying impacts the team- the coach dictates whether crying is a negative influence on the team or a tool to create more closeness and bonding for the team. What about creating a team environment where the athletes listen to and support each other in their pain instead of being uncomfortable with negative emotions? Again, a constant cry fest is one thing that may mean that an athlete needs to take some time away from the sport and focus fully on healing through therapy. However, a good cry from time to time out of frustration needs space to take its course. Over all, the team will be healthier because of it.

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