Confronting a coach is not something you as a sports parents should do on a regular basis. Done too often, it will blend uselessly into the background noise of parental complaining that most coaches learn to ignore.
But there is a time, a place, and a good reason for confronting coaches. Here’s the what where, when, why, and how:
The What of Confronting a Coach
There are several definitions for the word confront in the dictionary. Here are two distinctly different ones:
- to face in hostility or defiance, oppose
- to bring together for examination or comparison
When confronting a coach, you do not want to come in like a bull in a china shop, hostile, defiant, and ready to oppose. Ranting, hostile parents tend to get tuned out, or maybe they get told what they want to hear, but there is no follow-through by the coach.
For the sake of your child, your child’s team, and for your own personal sense of self-control, if you feel the need to confront your child’s coach, do it for the purpose of examination or comparison.
In other words, let the overriding reason for your confrontation be for the growth, development, and betterment of your child and the team. Not so you can see your kid play more, or play the position he wants. That kind of attitude will most likely always make you hostile. But if you come into the confrontation with the desire to do what’s best for the kids, then you can probably have a civil and productive conversation.
The Where of Confronting a Coach
There’s lots of places you can confront a coach, but all of them are private. In his office, in the gym after everyone’s left the game or practice. But the place to never confront the coach is in front of the team or other parents or in even in front of your own child. Keep your conversation private; dirty youth sports laundry is worse than your child’s stinky sports bag.
The When of Confronting a Coach
When my husband coached high school football and softball, the school district had a 24-hour policy for parents. They were told to wait 24 hours after a game, match, or meet if they felt the need to confront or contact a coach.
In practice, this did not always happen, but in theory it was a very sound suggestion. It gives everyone a chance to calm down, re-think the situation, and perhaps keep angry parents from embarrassing themselves or their kids.
The best time to confront a coach about an personal issue concerning your child is also not during a practice or parent meeting.
The Why of Confronting a Coach
Before you confront a coach, ask yourself a few questions:
- Will this confrontation help my child be a better player or person?
- Am I doing this in the best interest of my child’s development or growth or am I doing it because I feel angry that my child has been slighted or because I think the coach is being unfair?
- Is there a better way of handling this situation? Perhaps a player/coach conversation, rather than a parent/coach confrontation?
Often, parents take on fights with the coach that the child doesn’t even want. Most kids actually want their parents to stay out of it.
The time that you absolutely must speak up is when you suspect verbal or physical abuse, or question a coach’s moral integrity.
The How of Confronting a Coach
Although I strongly advise that sports parents let the kids handle their own battles, I know there may be times when you feel compelled to step in. When you do, remember that the results you get when you confront a coach could depend on how you do it.
Your best bet is to stay calm and ask non-accusatory questions, especially if you are asking about playing time or position issues. Not why aren’t you playing my kid more, but what can my child do to get on your radar? or what does my child need to do to improve so he can play the position he wants? Put the ball in your child’s court, so to speak, not ask the Coach how he plans to fix the situation.
Think about it. Always think about it. Sports parents are most likely to get themselves into a hostile situation–that actually ends up damaging their children more than helping–when they don’t stop to consider the consequences and actions of their words.
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