Bare Knuckle People Management is the top solution for the most common people-management issues. It provides the specific distinctions needed to turn your management into leadership. Read this book and watch your teams succeed!

—Justin Sachs, bestselling author of The Power of Persistence and Your Mailbox Is Full

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Managing Maddening Players

A couple months ago I posted an (overly, I’ll now admit) enthusiastic letter to the parents of the first grade baseball team – the Twins – I’m managing. Um, let’s start by saying that it hasn’t lived up to my initial hype.

I’ve been coaching kids since my wife gave birth to our own, and I’ve overwhelmingly enjoyed my youth coaching experience…until now.

  • Maybe it’s because I’ve been unusually busy with work and book promotion, and the early weeknight starts trouble me.
  • Maybe it’s because the weather has been so spotty, so even when we play, an early March rawness persists.
  • Maybe it’s because I’ve grown so incredibly bored with the endless “coach pitch” games in which every kids gets up every inning, and every kid runs after every ball hit anywhere in the field.
  • Maybe I’m just getting old and cranky.

But I suspect my relative unenjoyment stems from the two or three relentless knuckleheads who have graced my roster this year.  (Look, they’re 7-year-olds, so we’re not talking about “bad kids” here.  A little attentionally-challenged? Yes.  Annoying? Yes. Unable to keep their hands off each other?  You bet. But certainly not bad.)

I’ve tried it all.  I’ve pulled them aside to speak with them individually.  I’ve loaded them with praise even though they’re rarely deserving of it.  I’ve developed them with skill and baseball knowledge so they feel more competent.  I’ve given them feedback on the behaviors I’d like to see stopped.  I’ve spoken sternly with them.  I’ve separated them – even isolated them – from each other to dilute their adverse impact on others.

Their behaviors are manageable, but it’s constant work…far from the unqualified fun I’ve become accustomed to when coaching kids. And, because they’re kids whose parents paid like everyone else for a rec baseball program, they’ll be gracing my team right on through the last pitch of the season.

I can now relate to the pain of my management trainee clients who have complained about the cancerous, tenured, aging, unionized, bullet-proof veterans who they’re stuck with, whether the manager wants them there or not.

But maybe it’s a sign from above.  Maybe I needed a good reminder that some players don’t respond to your brand of management magic.  People are complicated and dynamic, and sometimes some people just don’t buy your act and jive with you.  And you nevertheless need to work with them.  Baseball, like work, goes on (and on, and on, and on), and sometimes the very best you can do is make the most of the cards you’ve been dealt.

About Sean O’Neil

Sean O’Neil considers himself a workplace and team dynamics expert (which can be considered a ploy to sell books, management training services, and speaking engagements). He is also Principal and CEO of Bare Knuckle People Management (, a sales and management training firm with clients that include the National Basketball Association, Major League Soccer, News Corporation, First Data, ADP, Royal Bank of Scotland, and the Oakland Raiders. Sean and John Kulisek co-authored Bare Knuckle People Management: Creating Success with the Team You Have – Winners, Losers, Misfits and All, which was published in May 2011. Sean has contributed to or been featured in, among others, The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Selling Power Magazine,, HR Morning Magazine, Leadership Excellence Magazine, Training Magazine, the Dallas Morning News, the Sports Business Journal, and Incentive Magazine. Sean appears regularly on radio and television programs, including Fox Business, mostly about workplace communications and management issues. He can also frequently be seen pacing the sidelines of a youth team he’s coaching.

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