Following are guidelines for how sports parents can contribute to a Coach-Parent Partnership that benefits youth athletes.
Recognize the Coaches’ Commitment. Your child’s coaches have made a commitment that involves many hours of preparation beyond the time spent at practices and games. Quite likely in youth sports they are volunteers. Respect their commitment and imagine yourself in their place before approaching them to discuss any issues you may perceive.
Make Early, Positive Contact with the Coach. As soon as you know who will coach your child, contact those coaches to introduce yourself and offer any assistance you may provide. Establishing a positive relationship with the coaches will help you proactively shape a positive experience for your child and will lay the foundation for respectful, productive conversations with coaches should a conflict arise later.
Fill the Coach’s Emotional Tank. Too often, coaches hear only from parents who have complaints. Filling the coaches’ Emotional Tanks with specific, truthful praise positively reinforces them to continue doing the things you see as benefiting the youth athletes.
Don’t Put the Player in the Middle. You wouldn’t complain to your children about how poorly their math teacher explains fractions. Don’t share your disapproval of a coach with your children. Doing so may force the child to take sides, and not necessarily your side! If your child has an issue with the coach and can maturely articulate it, encourage your child to approach the coach and at the very least learn some life lessons in self-advocacy with an authority figure. Otherwise, if you disapprove of how the coach handles a situation, seek a private meeting to discuss the matter.
Let Coaches Coach. It can confuse players to hear someone other than the coach yelling out instructions. Also, your instructions may counter the coaches’ strategy and tactics, undermining team performance.
Fill Your Child’s Emotional Tank. Competitive sports can be stressful to players. The last thing they need is your critiquing their performance…on top of what the coach may deliver and what they already are telling themselves. Let your children know you love and support them regardless of their performance.
Contribute to a Positive Environment. Fill all the players’ Emotional Tanks when you see them doing something well. Honor the Game as a spectator, respecting ROOTS (Rules, Opponents, Officials, Teammates and Self), and encourage others around you to Honor the Game.
Coach's Clipboard: Miserable ride home after the game
As kids take to the football or soccer fields, baseball and softball diamonds, or hit the gym for basketball, volleyball or gymnastics, chances are young athletes across different sports may have this in common: they will dread the drive home after the game.
Two former coaches surveyed hundreds of college athletes. Bruce E. Brown and Rob Miller of Proactive Coaching asked, "What is the worst memory from playing youth and high school sports?"
They say the overwhelming response was, "The ride home from games with my parents."
Retired Major League Baseball player Chad Moeller says he sees it play out with the hundreds of young athletes he has coached.
"When these athletes were surveyed about the ride home and talked about what they wanted and needed from their parents, the biggest thing that they all said, that made them feel the best, was when their parents told them, 'I loved watching you play.' From a parent’s perspective, that's not difficult. We did," stated Moeller in an interview from his indoor baseball facility.
The former Diamondbacks catcher says in the moments after a game, win or lose, kids desire distance. They make a rapid transition from athlete back to child. However, even the best-intentioned parents can make that ride home miserable by initiating a conversation about the contest.
So Moeller advises moms and dads to allow their son or daughter to "bring the game to you." If parents want to talk to their child about their performance, let there be a cooling off period. Wait until emotions are removed, the next day at the earliest. The next time a child heads to practice may be a good opportunity to bring it up.
He tells parents, "Chances are your child’s coach has already pointed out all the pluses and minuses. The kids get in the car after the game, they want to see you, their parent. They want to feel safe again. They want to know that you love them, no matter how they performed on the field."
Letter from a Volunteer Coach
Today I heard a comment made about me behind my back. I started to turn around and look, but then decided better of it and kept my eyes on the field. My wife hears things like this more often than I do, because many of you don’t know who she is. She tells me what you say. I have received angry emails, full of “suggestions,” about who should be playing where and how I... lost that day’s game for the kids. I thought I’d write an open letter to all of you parents, even though I might never send it. I’ll start it this way: "I am a volunteer."
I’m the one who answered the call when the league said they didn’t have enough coaches. I understand that you were too busy. I have some news for you. I’m not retired. I’m busy too. I have other children and a job, just like you do. Not only do I not get paid to do this – it costs me money. I see you walk up to the game 15 minutes after it started, still dressed for work. Do you know I’ve already been here over an hour? Imagine if you had to leave work early nearly every day. I’ve never seen you at a practice. I’m sure you’re plugging away at the office. But I’m out here, on the field, trying my best to teach these children how to play a sport they love, while my bank account suffers.
I know. I make mistakes. In fact, maybe I’m not even that great of a coach. But I treat the kids fairly and with respect. I am pretty sure they like coming to my practices and games, and without me or someone like me, there’d be no team for them to play on. I’m part of this community too and it’s no picnic being out here on this stage like this. It’s a lot easier back there with the other parents where no one is second-guessing you.
And I also know you think I give my son or daughter unfair advantages. I try not to. In fact, have you ever considered that maybe I’m harder on him than on the others? I’m sure he hears plenty of criticism at school from classmates, who hear it from you at home, about what a lame coach I am. And if, even unconsciously, my kids are getting a slight advantage because I know them better and trust their abilities, is that the worst thing in the world, considering the sacrifice I’m making? Trust me, I want to win too. And if your son or daughter could guarantee we’d do that, I’d give them the chance.
After this game is over, I’ll be the last one to leave. I have to break down the field, put away all the equipment and make sure everyone has had a parent arrive to pick them up. There have been evenings when my son and I waited with a player until after dark before someone came to get them. Many nights I’m sure you’ve already had dinner and are relaxing on the couch by the time I finally kick the mud off my shoes and climb into my car, which hasn’t been washed or vacuumed for weeks. Why bother cleaning it during the season? Do you know how nice it would be if, just once, after a game one of you offered to carry the heavy gear bag to my car or help straighten up the field?
If I sound angry, I’m not. I do this because I love it and I love being around the kids. There are plenty of rewards and I remind myself that while you’re at the office working, your kid is saying something that makes us all laugh or brings a tear to my eye. The positives outweigh the negatives. I just wish sometime those who don’t choose to volunteer their time would leave the coaching to the few of us who do.