I’m on a soccer team that is a mix between very serious, competitive folks (about a third) and folks who are just out there playing because they want to exercise, have some fun and the like.

It’s tough to be on the more serious end because you end up getting extremely frustrated by the folks who aren’t taking it as seriously as you are. The right way to approach this frustration though is the difference between whether you enjoy the season and your teammates or whether you let the frustration get in the way of your success.

When I coached the JV Girl’s Soccer team at Cary Academy, I took the approach of anger. When the girls didn’t take things seriously I got angry, and they ran sprints. Or, I took away a privilege. At the half-way point of the season, I was really burnt out. I realized that the problem wasn’t the hours, girls or trying to mix a 5-day a week gig with school. It was my attitude. We had an amazing second half of the season, and I saw a LOT of growth in the girls and the team. The pride they took in their matches once they felt like it was a team they wanted to be a part of was really astounding to see, and to be a part of.

This came up again today in my mind because the team that I play for now has had the classic  mix of serious folks being committed and showing up, and the not serious folks just coming along for the ride. Today we got a bit of a flame e-mail from a player, and it surprised me. Don’t yell in email; it never works. Worse, you’re not going to inspire the uninspired digitally.

Here’s how I would handle that situation. Get to the point where we have a solid 7 – 9 players at practice every week. Then, first game of the season, only play those 9 guys for the first 20 minutes of the game. Make people earn their starting role. The team will suffer as a result, but it proves the point. On top of that, it actually rewards the folks who come to practice in the sense that they’ve earned something the others haven’t.

Create pride in the end result. Let others have a sense of ownership. And then, you don’t have to flame anyone because the outcome takes care of itself.