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Addressing Players By Nicknames

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This resource stems from a question submitted to the Ask PCA blog. Responses come from our experts including PCA Trainers, who lead live group workshops for coaches, parents, administrators and student-athletes.

"Should coaches use the players given names or nicknames?"

PCA Response By Ruben Nieves, PCA Director of Training
This question, as with most matters, cannot be answered with an absolute such as “never.”

Coaches giving players a nickname that conveys a truthfully positive characteristic or connotation (such as: Speedy, Mr. Clutch, Admiral, Skywalker, Doctor J, Ripper, The Rock, Tiger, King, Ice Man) can convey fun, appreciation, caring and respect. This type of nickname can reinforce a strong quality or characteristic of a player. Of course, what matters here is how the player interprets the nickname, not what the coach’s intended message is.

A nickname that is derogatory (such as Fats, Pigpen, Dog, The Fridge, Sleepy, Animal, Killer, Cave Man) should definitely not be used. Even more neutral nicknames (such as: Slim, Gator, Professor, Surfer Boy, Yoda) are not recommended.

Keep in mind that the same nickname might be received differently by a boy or girl, especially if referencing a body type or body feature (such as: Bones, Red, Half-Pint, Curly). Also, sarcastic nicknames (such as: Princess, Bigs, Moneybags) are almost always hurtful in some way. And singling some players out with nicknames, while not others, can convey unequal treatment.

If in doubt, addressing the players by their actual names is the safe and recommended practice.

Download a printable version of this resource, including any additional commentary from PCA, by clicking the PDF below. To read more questions and answers like this, or to submit your own question to the Ask PCA blog, click here.

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