Of all the questions I’m asked when I do sports parenting presentations, the one topic that far surpasses everything else is: as a sports parent, what’s the best way to approach my kid’s coach about…..(fill in the rest of the question here: playing time, position, being made captain, etc).
There was a time not that long ago when coaches were never approached by parents. About anything. Coaches were put on a pedestal, and for better or worse, parents never went to complain. That kind of act was seen as being totally off-limits, and if a youngster had an issue with the coach, it was up to the boy or girl to approach the coach on their own. That took tremendous courage, and as such, it was rarely done.
Any issue that involved the coach was usually seen as the sole responsibility of the Athletic Director to keep tabs on the coaches, and if things were out of sync, it was the AD who stepped in, quietly, and talked to the coach. There were no parental complaints to the school board, or principal, or threatened lawsuits.
Now, clearly those days are gone. And while I am not so naive as to think that everything with old-time coaches was truly wonderful back in the day, the fact is that, these days, friction between coaches and parents continues and only grows worse. Every week I read of more and more quality coaches quitting, not because of the kids, but because of the interference from Moms and Dads. And more and more parents complain that coaches just aren’t very good any more.
So on this AM’s radio show, I opened the floor to suggestions on what we can finally do to straighten the ship and start heading back in a positive direction. There were some excellent suggestions which I recap below:
1 – BETTER COMMUNICATION: This is a concept that everybody agrees with, until you get down to specifics. But one idea that everybody seemed to like is that the AD and head coach of each varsity team should meet with the players and their parents in a mandatory meeting before the very first tryout. The AD should run the meeting, introduce the head coach, go over the coach’s credentials, experience, etc., and then talk about the coach’s philosophy towards tryouts, cuts, underclassmen playing more than seniors, and on and on.
The point is….it’s better to give voice NOW before the first practice to let all concerned exactly what the coach is all about. And yes, parents can certainly and should ask direct questions.
2 – ANONYMOUS SURVEYS: Such a simple but effective way of communicating. Have two such surveys- one at the middle of the season in which team players AND their parents can fill out a form which basically grades the coaching staff, not so much about their won-loss record, but on how their son/daughter is enjoying the season or not, what could be improved, other concerns, etc.
Another similar follow-up survey should be done at the end of the season as well. The surveys have to be done anonymously in order not to invite any retaliation against a player or their family.
3 – LET COACHES REACH OUT! Another good idea was to suggest that the head coach take the initiative and reach out a player’s parents if the coach and his staff sense that an issue is developing. In other words, rather waiting for the athlete and his parents come to the coach, why not tell the coach to make the first move?
The idea here is to show parents that the coach is a sensitive educator, and that he/she can see some friction may be developing. By making the first move, the coach will both impress the parents as well show that he/she wants to nip any problems in the bud.
These three ideas, I feel, are a step in the right direction, mainly because they are specific and offer some positive action. I’m curious as to any other ideas you have. By the way, if you’d like to hear the original show from this AM, you can always go to WFAN.com and find the link for Rick Wolff’s Sports Edge podcast.