Coaches who use or assign nicknames to players do so – for the most part- out of respect or appreciation for the player. Having a nickname is often rewarding as well. A more timid athlete may feel unnoticed on a team and having that unique moniker bestowed can go a long way in to building the player’s confidence and self-esteem.
However, that can also backfire on a coach. It goes without saying that the actual connotation of the nickname is the key factor here. A coach filled with great intentions may in fact end up upsetting the player. For example, giving a football player the nickname “Bear” given his superior level of play as a defensive lineman may seem innocent at first glance, but if the teenager has more body hair than the average teammate, he may interpret that as mockery from a person of authority. We getting dangerously close to intimidation levels.
Ultimately, how the player interprets the given nickname is what matters. Some names are a little safer to pursue such Flash or Speedy for quick athletes, and King and Superman for the mighty performers. They are fun and represent good qualities those students can identify with. In the end, coaches need to avoid anything derogatory such as Princess, Butterfingers and Hobbit.
Staying away from a nickname that qualifies, represents or degrades an athlete’s body type or feature is the way to go. The are some more neutral names one can come up with like Redfoot (cleat color), Master (team leader) and Superstar (center of attention). A coach should consider running the name by the athlete in question beforehand to help avoid uncomfortable and awkward moments for the team. No matter what sport you are involved with, every coach will tell you, distractions are not welcomed and can become a silent season-killer. When all else fails (or if you see that it could), calling an athlete by his or her given name is also a sign of respect and acknowledgement that too are part of the team. You can’t go wrong with that.