Confronting a coach is not a habit that I advocate when a parent is unhappy with playing time, position, or even coaching strategy. But I know that there will be times when you feel you must do it anyway for one of those purposes, or even for a reason that has nothing to do with any of those three issues.
Check your Motive
Don’t Surprise Them (or Yourself)
Many teams and leagues advocate the 24-hour rule which encourages parents to wait 24 hours after a game to confront a coach about something that happened in the game. This is to give parents time to calm down and to give Coach time to get his or her head out of the game.
I’d go one step further: make an appointment with the coach. Let them know that you’ve got some concerns you’d like to discuss with them, face to face.You might even let them know what those concerns are about. Never confront in an email!
Making an appointment prepares the coach for the conversation and it also allows you time to think through what you want to say. This does away with venting and saying things that you will regret.
“Help Me Understand”
In this book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey lists one of those habits as: seek to understand, then to be understood.
Think of this contrast of attitudes:
You walk into the coach’s office with a complaint and your sole purpose is to let him or her know how frustrated you are.
You want into the coach’s office with a concern and your goal is to understand the situation better so that the result is what’s best for your child and the team.
Seeking to understand is a habit that is sorely neglected in many parent/coach conversations. Of course, it should come from both sides, but I am only speaking here to parents.
Seeking to understand starts with recognizing that the coach is human, has flaws, is trying his or her best, may have problems at home or on the job, and on top of all that, is trying to successfully coach a team, and on top of that, is trying to keep parents happy.
Going into a confrontive situation with the desire to understand instead of intimidate will have a much better chance of coming to a positive resolution for you, your child, and the team.
Strive for Improvement
When my son played 6th grade AAU basketball, he was on a team where he seemed to be sitting the bench a lot. Privately, we were a bit steamed, but my husband calmly talked to the coach at a point after the weekend tournament and asked this question, “What does TJ need to do to get on your radar?” The coach made a few suggestions of what TJ could work on and we resolved to help him improve in those areas.
Perhaps we should have let TJ handle that confrontation, but we didn’t and I’m sure there will be times when you step in as well. When you do, an attitude of seeking to learn and improve, rather than demanding why “my child isn’t getting more playing time” will bring much more helpful feedback.
Coaches are People Too
I was reminded of this over and over throughout 29 years of being a coach’s wife. Some of the insults, attacks and abuse that my husband received from parents caused me much anger and even some tears. I saw him as a caring, dedicated coach who truly wanted what was best for his players. Yes, he is human and yes, he makes mistakes, but he’s a mere mortal who’s not perfect.
Perhaps ask yourself this question before you confront your child’s coach: if someone came to me with a problem, what would I respond to? What would I instantly dismiss? If the goal of your confrontation is to do what’s best for your child, then a truly effective conversation is your only choice.
For more information on how you can help your athlete, click here.