I often have conversations with sports parents at my office about the adults serving as coaches to their kids. Most of these conversations are healthy and positive, but there are other instances where parents voice their frustrations relating to how the coach is leading the team. As you might have guessed, the #1 complaint I hear about coaches pertains to playing time (and the “politics” that impact the coach’s decision). Other concerns parents commonly raise have to do with the coach pushing too hard, not pushing enough, or comments pertaining to the coach’s lacking experience as it relates to the job. It’s unfortunate when parents and coaches experience distress in their relationship, as the end result of this kind of dysfunction is almost always a less-than-desirable sport experience for kids.
Bridging the parent – coach gap
The funny thing is when it comes to sports parents and coaches, everyone generally wants the same thing. Parents and coaches alike want kids to have fun, learn sport skills, and develop life skills that will prepare kids for success in school, their future careers, and life. The sport parent – coach relationship should be supportive and respectful, but in too many instances it instead becomes negative, and even hostile. Since there isn’t a single template to follow that ensures a perfect parent – coach relationship, it is important to exercise patience, understanding, and healthy communication in order to create a prosperous youth sport scenario.
Parent ideas to help
There are many things parents can do to enhance their child’s experience playing sports, including the following 5 ideas:
- Be active and involved. It is important to attend team meetings, pay attention to team information that is sent out, and ask questions when you are unsure of things. Respect the coach’s team policies and rules, and show your support and appreciation regularly.
- Learn the coach’s philosophy. Does everyone play, or only the most talented kids? How will missing practices effect your child’s playing time? Does the coach invite your input, or prefer to rely on his or her own ideas? The more you know about how the coach runs the team, the easier it will be to work with your child to excel within his or her system.
- Be patient and understanding. Coaching is a challenging job, and sometimes a thankless one. Many coaches are new in the job, and even veteran coaches can be pressed for time and resources. It is for these reasons that parents are encouraged to exercise patience with decisions, and understanding when it comes to the complexities of the job.
- Steer clear of finger-pointing. While it is easy to target other kids when it comes to why your child should play more than another, it’s important to consider a healthier alternative instead. Rather than blaming other kids (a strategy that will lead to future team problems), instead try to learn what your child needs to do to improve his or her chances to play in the future.
- Make the best of every situation. Kids only play competitive sports for a relatively small time of their lives, prompting both parents and coaches to work in healthy ways to ensure a successful sport experience for kids. Keep things in perspective, and develop the mental toughness needed to bounce back form difficult situations.
Sports parents these days invest a lot in their young athletes, including money for training and equipment, time traveling to practices and games, and efforts to ensure kids have opportunities to play. It is for these reasons why some parents become frustrated when they don’t understand why their child’s coach is making decisions different than they would like — but the key is to learn ways to work together in these moments, rather than seeing the coach as some kind of enemy. Your efforts to build strong relations with the coach will not only make your sport experience as a parent a healthy one, but will allow your child to reach his or her full potential as well.