Confronting the Coach
Any parent who has participated in even one season of one sport with a child has seen something he or she doesn’t like about practice, or the coach, or the game, or the game time their child gets. Parents might complain about how long practice goes on a school night. Maybe the coach isn’t running drills parents see as valuable. Or maybe, just maybe, parents are dissastified with how much time their child gets to play.
One mom said, “I mean, I know we want to win, and to win, they need to know how to play. But how are they supposed to learn how to play or to get better if they don’t get any good game time experience?”
Matt Fansher is the Director of Coaching and Player Development for Oklahoma Soccer Association. It is his job to train the coaches who coach the youth in Oklahoma. According to him, “lack of playing time” is the most common reason a parent becomes dissatisfied with a coach. While he has seen “parents approach coaches and start yelling,” he rarely sees confrontations of the “news-making variety.”
Fansher teaches both parents and coaches on how to handle any issue in a way that will resolve the problem. He said that, often, coaches forget that parents see the player as “their baby” while the coach sees the player as “the player.” In addition, “coaches feel they shouldn’t be questioned by parents about how they coach.”
To change this, Fansher suggests coaches adopt a “proactive rather than reactive communication policy.” When coaches make themselves available to talk, parents and players feel more comfortable asking questions without conflict.
Another helpful tactic is to have the player present for all discussions. “Many times, the player is not communicating all of the information to the parents,” Fansher said. “By having all parties attend, everyone hears the same message.”
But that only addresses the coaching side. Fansher stresses that parents have a role to play in creating seamless communication.
In the same way that the coach views the athlete as merely player, the parent views the player as the child. “They watch their children play with a different set of glasses,” Fansher said. “Parents get emotional and want to lash out rather than seek an answer.”
Fansher gives parents credit for wanting the kids to “earn their playing time, but the problem comes when the player or parent doesn’t understand why they are not getting that playing time.”
If a parent really wants to talk about how his or her child can get more time in the game, Fansher suggested, “Contact the coach to set up a time to talk about it. Be open and honest and be ready to listen.” If a parent enters the meeting with “an agenda,” he might not understand or care about what the coach has to say.
It boils down to starting the coach/player/parent relationship on the right foot, with open lines of communication, a willingness to talk and to listen, and an understanding that everyone involved has a different take on the situation.