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The Sport Digest - ISSN: 1558-6448

Tainted Talent (Sport Psychology Case Study)


This study examines the undisciplined behavior of a player (Michelle), who creates an inappropriate environment in her team towards an achievement of a good performance; she suffers from psychological problems caused by a rough family environment; she is deprived of affection, stability, and is perhaps the breadwinner.

Her head coach is ignorant of the different coaching styles and never adopt one to insure a better performance, as for the assistant, she plays the role of an observer. Both coaches do not have a sound personality to lead a team and are inexperienced enough in the field to set solid foundations for the team. Conflicts of the team are partly caused by Michelle but also largely due to the inefficient management of the team.

The assistant coach should help Michelle –since she feels comfortable with her- go through a treatment of a social assistant. Besides, the assistant coach should impose certain boundaries in her relationship with the players and a pattern of behavior they have to abide by.

Assistant coach and the head coach must begin to co-operate for the benefit of the team. The assistant coach should realize that communicating her beliefs, conception of a team and its management to the head coach.

To establish a friendly atmosphere and harmony between players, we have to involve them in playing for the team and asking them to provide coaches with opinions.

Note: All characters in this observations’ study and its analysis are the sole invention of the authors, and bear no intended resemblance to any particular team or/and real individual (player, coach…) living or dead.


This case presents a good instance of one major problem most sporting organization often face, namely the existence of undisciplined yet talented member in the team who is not only disturbing his or her teammates and causing his coaches a lot of trouble but at times goes as far as to threaten the foundations of his team. Before such a delicate problem, many coaches often themselves impotent or in a dilemma; should they dismiss this member or feel compelled to keep it since they need it desperately and bear all the discomfort he is causing them?

Situation Description

Michelle is an unrespectful, fake, egocentric, arrogant, undisciplined, and an unbalanced character. What makes her an unlikable character is that she shows no respect to her coaches, that she mocks her teammates and causes them a lot of problems. She can be seen as a psychological case since she suffers from psychological problems. In fact, she lives in a rough family environment, is deprived of affection, stability, and is perhaps the breadwinner. To disclose such disequilibria, she resorts to lying about her personal life, and playing tricks, in matches. Such behavior causes her teammates to resent her and to feel uncomfortable and disturbed. The whole team is threatened by her existence. This miserable and irresponsible character cannot but behave in that way to attract attention and therefore substitute this lack of affection and interest, which is a reaction to negative reinforcement. She feels not confident and insecure though she is said to be a talented athlete that is why she does not perform well. She is also weak in the achievement motivation: she is only capable of achieving when she is paid attention to. Her achievement motivation is conditioned by her fear and instance, when she feels nervous; she needs to act out more and therefore acting hides her inefficiency.

Team Environment

This is a disjointed, incoherent and shaky team, which is partly due to the presence of Michelle. They feel frustrated because none of the coaches takes action against Michelle and because they lack discipline, too. Michelle’s inconsistent behavior and the coaches’ weakness in handling any situation and makes them lose control and focus. The head coach is indifferent to the players’ interests and concerns. He is unskilled and inexperienced, that is why he lacks any philosophy of coaching or leadership, and what matters for him is the result. He is also ignorant of team co-operation.

The assistant coach is extremely considerate. She is over caring and too responsible to the point of passivity. She is a great observer and theorist but lacks experience as a coach, for how does the case of Michelle turn her so perplexed and passive? She gets entangled in the personal problems of Michelle and fails to do her job appropriately. Michelle’s parents are going through hard times and have lost touch with their daughter’s life. There is a lack of emotion and communication in their family.

Psycho-Sociological Analysis of the Case

This extract provides an accurate and deep analysis and criticism of what a team should be. Therefore, it hints to the main principles upon which a team should be built when showing to what extent the existence of just one inappropriate member in the team may spoil the foundation of the whole body while also focusing on how far the coaching style, too, can affect the players’ psychology, behavior and performance whether positively or negatively. As for Michelle’s behavior, it should be treated directly. In fact, part of her plight originates from her family environment, which is loaded by social and psychological problems, and is characterized by the absence of emotion and communication, which will inevitably create such unbalanced, self-centered, unsociable and miserable character. Therefore, such environment hampers Michelle from achieving good performance and establishing good relationships with her teammates and coaches. Though practicing sport might have positive effects on her life; however, it is necessary that she be treated by a social assistant or a psychologist and her coaches teach her how to behave appropriately within a team as well as to respect her coach.

Certainly, Michelle’s behavior is largely due to the ineffective leadership of the coaches. In fact, whereas the head coach seems uninterested in sport, unskilled in the field, indifferent to the players’ problems and interests, and lacks any sporting philosophy, the assistant coach looks over caring, too lenient and passive, which hurts the interests of the team. Coaches rarely communicate: the head coach, for instance, seems unaware of either the responsibilities of the assistant or his own nor even does he know what a team framework means or deliver a speech to his team or handle any situation such as the state of anxiety that overwhelmed the team instead he himself seems far more confused, unfocused, and needs someone to tell him what is going on.

This extract also alluded to the theme of gender discrimination in employment for the head coach is unqualified for his job. The assistant coach, too, seems confused as she avoids proposing to the head coach solutions to the problems of the team thinking that it might hurt their professional interaction and ignoring that this was the heart of the matter and that her job dictates her to look for better managerial means to achieve great performances in the limits of her job while preserving good relationship with her colleagues. This may hint to the issue of hierarchy in work and the superficial relations people are preserving in work. Moreover, it is surprising that the coaches find so much difficulty to handle the case of Michelle by ignoring her and her problems and by not willing to cooperate to help her go beyond them, thus weak leadership, absence of action and unsound framework of the team are apparent. Thus the internal conflicts of the team are partly caused by Michelle but also largely due to the inefficient management of the team. These deficiencies are sure to be reflected on the team, which lacks any cohesion. The team is witnessing Michelle’s absence of discipline, disrespect toward her teammates and coaches, and her tricks and the coaches’ absence of action. Before such a weak, and undisciplined; that is why, it will take the command in treating the case of Michelle. The team resents Michelle and chases the occasion to avenge them from this rotten element, either by being cynical to her or by the eye-to-eye confrontation. Besides, every girl seems to be self-centered and lost, and the description of the state of anxiety and lost in one match are a better instance for that. Therefore, the girls and the coaches seem only to unite against Michelle, but when performing their tasks, this cohesion is absent. However, this kind of cohesion is not needed for the success of the team. Clearly, the team is swinging so one should ask whether it is in the benefit of the group to keep Michelle or to dismiss her even if she is somehow –a good athlete.

Analysis of Coaches’ Characters

The head coach looks highly indifferent to his players and their worries, disinterested in sport, disorganized, and unskilled in the field, which is sure to affect the players’ performance. He is ignorant of the different coaching styles he should adopt to insure a better performance. As for the assistant, she plays the role of a good observer, analyst and theorist who enjoys a critical mind to a certain extend; however, she is in a way of failure as a coach since she lacks experience to handle different situation, and does not know what coach cooperation is. She is also over caring extremely considerate, respectful, reasonable, and humanistic to the point of passivity. Leader style of head coach is too lenient to manage a team, for instance, she is unable to set limits to Michelle’s conversation and endless fictional stories or to her disregard for her coaches and wastes a lot of time trying to understand things in order to take the right decision and value judgment. Both coaches do not have a sound personality to lead a team and are inexperienced enough in the field to set solid foundations for the team; that is why they kept ignoring the case of Michelle and no one dares to handle it or at least to impose a certain discipline on the group; they both ignore what team cohesion and management and coach cooperation mean. In fact, both coaches barely communicate and do not show any sighs of competence or skills, therefore the team is not going to benefit from them; on the contrary their indecision, and absence of leadership will be reflected on the girls, for instance, when girls get frustrated in the match, the head coach could not master their anxiety instead he himself looks at loss and fails even to attract their attention through his nonsense speech or to give them the right instruction to make up for the situation. The head coach also seems to stick to his position as –a mediator- and refuses to take any effective step; if coaches knew what a team means, departing from themselves, they would have been able to solve any problem.

The assistant coach should not have contented herself by just watching and trying to understand what is going on. She looks too passive and lenient. She even does not have a character strong enough to lead a team, for example, she should have suggested to the head coach better coaching styles so that they manage the team more positively and effectively. Such as, treating the case of Michelle either by helping her solve some of her family problems or treat her psychological problems or by dismissing her from the team since she seems to threaten its foundation by disturbing the other players and affected their behavior, psychology, and equilibrium. She could have imposed on the team more discipline; a real sporting spirit, some cohesion and harmony by making each player look more responsible and respectful towards the rest of the team, more disciplined and sensitive to the other members’ worries and by creating some harmony and unity, and mainly by strengthening the sense of belonging to a group between players, which makes the definition of a team. Shortly, she should cooperate with the head coach or at least asked for her rights and responsibilities towards the team. She should have put Michelle in her place from the beginning by not letting her tell her all these stories as well as taught the girls to respect each other and their coaches. Finally, she should have gone beyond the role of a mediator and acted as a genuine assistant.

Operational Recommendations

Since Michelle feels comfortable with the assistant coach to the point of confiding her her personal problems, the assistant should take advantage of this bonus to influence Michelle to see a social assistant to come to her family’s rescue or a psychologist who will help her feel better integrated in society since her problems are mainly due to the rejection and scorn of others to her. Her desire to attract attention through playing tricks, inventing fictional stories about herself such as being raped, looking violent, and undisciplined towards her teammates, unrespectful towards her coaches only reflect the absence of affection, harmony in her family, thus Michelle seeks other means to exteriorize her discomfort, disintegration and pain. These means, however, are self-destructive. Without the help of others, Michelle will continue hurting herself and the people around her. The assistant coach should help her go through this even if it is at the expense of their relationship. Besides, the assistant coach should impose certain boundaries in her relationship with the players and a pattern of behavior they have to abide by. It will certainly sound hard for them because they get used to treating her as a friend. She is the one who should look more severe, affirmative, while remaining friendly with them, understanding, and not losing their confidence. Though players may revolt against such restrictions, she should not yield to them. Moreover, it is necessary that the assistant coach and the head coach begin to co-operate for the benefit of the team. The assistant coach should realize that communicating her beliefs, conception of a team and its management to the head coach and not remain so much silent and respectful. She should also ask the head coach to determinate her duties and rights so that she begins to translate them into action and not remain a mere observer and passive mediator which does not disrespect or hurt her loyalty to him and their professional relation. They both should discuss the deficiencies of the team and look for radical solutions to them. They should both assert a sounder personality in the eyes of the players and require them to demonstrate greater respect towards them and more discipline. In this way, the team may move ahead and acquire certain cohesion. However, if the head coach refuses, the assistant can ask to take the lead of the team. We think it is our responsibility to make the head coach aware of his responsibilities towards his players. He should begin to feel he is part of the team and not a supervisor or a boss; rather he has to do with human beings, and be fully aware and responsive to each player’s concerns.


Team cohesion is achieved only if everything is set in advance, namely the team rules, which the players should abide by, the objectives of the team and the ways to achieve them and both the head coach assistant coaches should work these on; therefore, the interaction between them is necessary. This will reinforce their intrinsic motivation, which will ensure a great control of the different obstacles they may face and a better management of the team. One way of establishing a friendly atmosphere and harmony between players is to involve them in playing for the team and asking them to provide them with opinion. In this way, they will feel more involved and grow more confident and responsible. Coaches may get in touch with the players’ family, which help them grow more aware of the players’ environment, and concerns. This will help them establish more friendly relationships with them and gain their confidence and respect. A consistent leadership will eradicate hesitation, frustration and fear in players.