If your child has ever been coached by a negative coach, you have probably been tempted to fight fire with fire.
If he’s a yeller, you want to chew him out.
If he’s critical, you want to be critical about him being critical.
If he focuses more on the mistakes of the team than on the victories, you want to focus on his mistakes.
These tactics may work periodically, but more often than not, they will not produce the results that you want. The result that you desire is to make the coach less negative, and being negative back will probably not do that.
So what works when dealing with a negative person? Here’s a few suggestions:
Ask yourself if there is any truth in what they say. Negative people think they are just being realistic and might even have a good reason for their negativity. Filter through what they are saying and ask if there is any truth to it. If a coach is always pointing out the negative to your child, help your child filter through and discern if there is something there he can learn. If you don’t find anything valid in their negativity, then move on.
Fight Negativity with Positivity. If you know that your child’s coach is pounding negative stuff into your child, be sure that you are shoring him up with positive at home. He may come home, saying that the coach chewed the team out because they didn’t play hard enough or because they made so many mistakes, and you can “fight” back with remarks like: “Sounds like it was a rough practice. What good things happened?” Or “I’m sorry you had a rough day, but I’m proud of you for working hard! Hey, let’s go get some ice cream!”
If you retaliate with your own negative words about the coach, you are only enflaming the problem in your child’s head. Now Dad and the Coach are mad.
Attend Practices and Games. I’ve not been a huge advocate of parents attending practices all the time, but if your child is coming home with stories about a negative coach, then maybe your presence–with a few other parents–may help keep a coach in line. Then talk with your kids after: did coach act any different with the parents there? What did he do differently?
Help Your Child Keep Focused on the Right Things. My kids had numerous coaches that, in one way or another, were negative. We tried to help them re-focus–on their game, on their teammates, and on why they were playing. On more than one occasion, I’d say, “Don’t play for your coach, play for your team.” Coaches will come and go, but friends and love for the game will hopefully still be a factor when a new coach comes on the scene.
When Confronting. Although confronting negative coaches rarely works, if you approach them in a positive, non-accusatory way, you may be able to reach a solution. Instead of coming at them, accusing them of doing something wrong or being negative, try focusing on the problem that is actually affecting your child.
For instance, let’s say your child is struggling with his hitting and coach is expressing his disappointment to your child. The problem is not the coach being negative; the problem is that your child is struggling with his hitting. So maybe an approach like, “Hey Coach, my daughter is really struggling with her hitting right now, can you give us some ideas for helping her improve.” He should be doing that anyway, as a coach, but there are some coaches who really miss the boat and do not properly help kids better their skills. If nothing else, your question may help him realize that he’s been negligent in that area of coaching.
Move On or Endure. As a parent, you must make the choice of whether to move on to another team because of the coach’s negativity, or to use it as an opportunity to teach your child some important lessons. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer on this one; it depends on how bad the coach is, how your child’s being affected: can it help him grow stronger? Or is it causing irreparable discouragement?
As easy as it is to blame others for the difficult season your child may be going through, the honest truth is that you, as the parent, have more to do with it than you may think. How you handle the coach and counteract his negativity could be the game-changer for your child.
Would you like to learn more about how to coach your child through tough circumstances? If so, check out this page or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.