Building Discipline

By Rob Orr

After submitting my thoughts on Developing a Program last week, I was quite surprised at the number of requests I received to expand on the team discipline header. Below therefore is a quick addendum to that original article.

In writing it, I have assumed that you are (as previously discussed in my last post) already working with a committed coaching staff and that they therefore do not form part of the problem! If that is not the case, then I’d humbly suggest you have other challenges to resolve prior to embarking on this type of cultural change. Hopefully though, whether this is the case or not, you will still find something below of interest.

No Excuses

“Excuses are like arseholes, everyone’s got one and they ALL stink!”

Before we can explore this subject further, let me apologise up front if at times I sound like a grumpy old man (which to be fair, for the most part I am!) when it comes to discussing what, for me at any rate, is one of the greatest afflictions impacting people nowadays, namely the excuses culture.

It staggers me how creative some people have become at inventing excuses that blame anyone but themselves for their own actions and/or lot in life. Over the last several decades, I think I have heard every why-this-why-that (or as I call it, whine-this-whine-that) excuse ever invented and yet, both professionally and in our sport, in all that time I have still to meet a single person who thinks that way (or doesn’t ‘think’ as the case may be) but is nevertheless successful on a consistent basis. To change that attitude therefore, I believe it is imperative that any programme which harbours the ambition of becoming competitive, instil a culture of no excuses throughout every part of their organisation.

Now, for obvious reasons, introducing such a change has to come from the top down but notwithstanding that, it is still imperative that the policing of it is built on a foundation of peer pressure. When we first introduced no excuses to our players, I was extremely fortunate that the class, who sadly just graduated (we will miss you guys!) not only bought into the no excuses ethos but actually thrived because of it and not just on the field but off it too. They quickly ensured therefore that everyone joining our team either got ‘with’ the programme, or were quickly side-lined from it. If you are to effect real change in your culture and introduce any type of disciplinary code, it must begin with this change in mind-set but even more importantly, it must be led by your players.


As anyone who has ever worked with me will attest, my well-worn mantra of “early is on time, on time is late” is something I bang on about all the time! Lateness is one of my pet peeves, especially when practice periods are always under such severe pressure and it truly drives me to distraction therefore when someone turns up late. Lateness not only disrespects every team-mate who gets it together to arrive early (which is on time!) but also demonstrates a complete lack of self-discipline from the player in question, which I promise you is one of the essential qualities you must have to be successful at anything in life, let alone football.


Late for me though is not a player who has informed us before-hand that he is going to be late because of class/work commitments. Rather it is the guy who only just missed his bus, or forgot his this-or-that and had to go back for it, or slept in, or whatever. You get my meaning I’m sure and I am willing to wager that you know more than a few of this type too!

When creating a system of checks-and-balances therefore, I believe it is essential that any sanctions introduced ultimately impact the very people a players lateness effects – namely his team-mates. At Stirling this takes the form of a simple but effective 4REAL (see what we did there?!) system.

1 x lateness – The player in question runs suicides on a Wednesday morning at the crack of dawn for half an hour
2 x lateness – You ‘watch’ your positional unit (IE: DBs) run suicides on a Wednesday morning at the crack of dawn for half an hour
3 x lateness – You ‘watch’ your unit (IE: defence) run suicides on a Wednesday morning at the crack of dawn for half an hour
4 x lateness – You ‘watch’ the entire team run suicides on a Wednesday morning at the crack of dawn for half an hour

Now I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how quickly your other players ensure that their offending team-mate understands this rule, especially as it’s them doing the running instead after the first rule break. Suffice to say we have never reached the ‘entire team’ sanction and only ever had a single player reach the ‘unit’ level. That’s one player….ever.

For those of you involved in the junior/senior game, it is simple to add this type of system in at the end of a practice but remember, the goal is to create a no excuses culture, so the important thing is to find a way to enforce whatever it is you decide to do and thereafter, make sure you do what you say you will every single time!