Parents vs. Coaches, Players vs. Coaches

What do you if you think your kid is playing for a “bad” coach?

Let’s be honest. You have devoted some serious time…energy…money..and love to make sure your youngster is getting the most out of their God-given potential as an athlete. And the good news is that your kid is putting together a pretty good track record of accomplishments.

But then your youngster tries out for a team – let’s say it’s the HS basketball team — and much to your dismay, the coach really doesn’t seem to be impressed with what your kid can do on the court. In a stunning development, your kid doesn’t make the starting five, and when he does get into the game, it’s only for a few moments, and even worse, the coach has him playing a position he’s never played before.

So what do you do? Do you complain directly to the coach? Tell your son that the coach is an idiot? Commisserate with the other sports parents? Or just grimace through it, and hope for better things to evolve?

These kinds of situations have become increasingly commonplace in recent years, and it pits the coach against the parent – with the kid in the middle.

Problem is – there are SO many layers to this question. That is, how does one define what makes for a good coach? For many, all that matters is the coach’s overall won-loss record. If the coach wins, and wins a lot, then he must be good. Right?

But what about the coach who simply benefits from a town’s travel program that fosters terrific athletes from elementary and middle school, and then in HS, they end up playing for that coach? The varsity coach is simply the beneficiary of talented athletes who grew up playing for travel team coaches. As a result, the varsity team wins, but it has little to do with the HS coach and his abilities. 

You get the idea.

As discussed on the show this AM, I feel that – just as with teachers – – you’re going to have some great teachers, some lousy teachers, and everybody else falls in-between. As such, you need to tell your athlete the same thing about coaches. In addition, if your son or daughter is really irked by what’s happening with their role on the team, your athlete needs to stand up on their own two feet, figure out what they want to ask of the coach, and then plan a time to directly talk with the coach about the issue in question.

In other words, part of the maturation process in sports is dealing with adversity, and learning how to fight one’s own battles is a key part of that. As a parent, you have to understand that the sooner your youngster can face the coach on their own terms, the stronger and better your athlete is going to do in sports, and in life.


  • Rob

    This is a tough one. As you state, there are so many layers and factors. One thing I would suggest that must be the responsibility of the coach is to lay-out and explain his philosophy to the kids AND parents at the start of the season or better yet at the meetings to find out if the kids are interested. This will avoid some of the inevitable issues that will arise during a season. I see too many coaches who do not explain how he or she handles playing time? What determines playing time? What are his or her expectations of the student athletes as far as practice, attendance, grades, and overall behavior? Does the coach have a philosphy of building character, sportsmanship, or is it win at all cost?

    I am seeing additional fallout from parents not liking the way their son or daughter was evaluated and thus placed on their school/travel team or when they discover that their son/daughter is not going to be the starting shortstop or point guard. They are now taking matters into their own hands and forming a travel team of their own so little Johnny or Sally can be the point guard or shortstop. The market is ripe for this. Tournaments are a dime a dozen these days and make the kids feel as though they are in an elite class. The truth is all it takes is a check for an entry fee and transportation and a kid and his parent can go play in tournaments across the country.

    I truly believe once the kids reach 12 or 13 they know where they stand compared to other players. I guess at some point they’ll have to break the news to Mom or Dad (i.e. coach).

    Thanks for great perspective Coach Rick.

  • rob lasaracina

    rick, my daughter is a junior,plays on a solid hs team w/a coach who has been there for over 30yrs(his son is asst). all they do is yell at refs,dont coach,dont run kids much at practice and only play 5 kids significant minutes. he has 1 legit all around player, 2 rebounders,1 defender and 1 so called shooter. they are a decent team cause of the 1 girl, and most teams in league are sub-par. the othe 4 players struggle against decent teams. my daughter has played over 2 of the girls her whole life until now. the starting 5 are exhausted in last qtr of games against better teams and he doesnt sub. there are 2 bench players that would get signif. minutes on every other team in the conference. my daughter asked what she needed to do to get pt, he told her 1.put your hands up on defense, 2. need to be in shape at beginning of season, not in the middle and 3. You have a nice shot.
    how does this person get to be a coach?oh yeah the hs gym is named after him. the days of playing only 5 kids are long gone, girls have developed so much in 30 years that a lot of schools can put a starting 5 together where all 5 can play.
    the worst part is the 1 senior he has is the defender and she cant even defend! she is fast, so when she gets beat, she gets back quick, but she has no fundamentals, she cant catch, dribble or shoot, she is just fast
    my ex-wife played on a full ride at bentley college in Mass., and she is going crazy as am i. we plan to sit and talk w/coach after the season, but this guy is not really the talking type. he is very old school

    • Bluejohn

      This is a common scenario — the old coach who thinks it’s still 1984. Ricks nuance observation that coaches sometimes benefit from travel programs is all too common. We have a similar coach who has been running the same system, regardless of the players, for over 25 years. Same setup, same out of bounds plays, same everything. He won some in the late 80’s, less in the 90’s, and hardly at all in the current century. Occasionally the team will be okay due to talent provided. This coach is currently in the hall of fame, largely due to longevity – he has a very low basketball IQ (he’s a bad gym teacher during the day). He chooses kids based on his 30 year old system (2 slow bigs preferably from football, a shooting forward, a shooting guard, and a point). If you have multiplly talented forwards (think 6’3, 6’4″ who can run and play) only one makes the team. He openly states that he doesn’t like swingmen or point forwards. The coaches club protects him tighter than any group I’ve encountered.

  • BL

    At the HS level yes kids need to learn to be independent and advocate for themselves.
    Parental involvement should be only for extreme problems. Even in middle school ball,
    kept my distance from the school coach, to start my kid on the right path towards HS,
    even when at times things didn’t go well (coach really did not teach them much).

    For younger kids, I have found that daddy coached teams can be very unfair, playing
    coach’s kids and friends of coaches kid. Playing time allocated based on prior vs current year’s performance without recognition that kids are developing and can change drastically.
    I intervened for my son in LL travel baseball and found assistant coaches agreed with me
    and fought the team manager to move my son up in the batting order, and get more time in the field. Was helpful to have assistant coaches on my side, but you would not know if you didn’t speak to them.

    • Eva

      In high school at the varsity level, player evaluation is highly subjective in most cases on most teams. Really, who becomes a high school girls lacrosse or volleyball coach? Are they really good judges of the talent they have? Sure there are a couple of kids who are slightly faster than than the rest, there are some who are more aggressive, etc. There will be a couple who have spent countless hours playing and training for a specific sport. In any case, most high school varsity athletes are not going to play in college and almost none will play at the pro level. I think that coaches who have competent players (and since they picked them all they have vouched for their competency) should play all players, starting or not, a generous amount of time. The amount of pressure placed on kids playing varsity sports is crazy! No wonder why most top athletes are not top students. The system is distorted and loaded to generate egomaniacal parents, players and coaches. Crushing some kids spirits is of value to whom exactly? Now that I think about it I regret every getting my kids involved–even though sometimes they were the ones getting all the good attention.

  • Adelyn

    Im in the 7th grade and I play softball, basketball, volleyball, and cheer. We have the same coach for everything and there’s this girl who does everything but cheer. The coaches love her, teachers, parents and we are still in softball.
    I was on the Jr. High team and I was number 1 pitcher and 3rd base. Never ever sat a game. We’ll me and four other girls got moved up to JV ( Jr. Varsity )
    Me, second baseman, shortstop, and catcher. Shortstop was that girl I was speaking of earlier.
    We’ll our first game…. I sat the bench entire game. Second game sat the bench but for 1 ending I went to righr field. I can play there but never have. We won every game but then they brought down and 8th grade r back down from varsity to catch. And our catcher was doing fantastic. So now she sits the bench with me along with a 10th grader who is amazing and they want put her in. They only put us in when we are winning really bad witch makes me very upset. When we are in practice I work my tail off just to try to be put in more. But if I was running and catching every fly ball that came to me while doing kart wheels and shortstop missed a grounder they would probably be like “That’s okay ****** you could get it next time, ADELYN you should of done that with no hands”.
    And same thing with the 2nd baseman her and shortstop go in every single game and me and Macy sit the bench. I mean I love shortstop and 2nd baseman to death buy idk.

    well that is my comment lol but its a still going on so… goodbye

  • Nadine Sky

    This applies to a 7 year old to? To speak wit the coach?

    • Rick Wolff

      No, clearly that’s too young. This should apply when kids get to be around 13 or 14, when they are in the process of developing a sense of individual maturation. And by the time they’re upper classmen in HS, they should definitely be able to stand on their two feet and address the coach directly. Coach Wolff