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Talking to your childs High School Coach

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As a parent you cannot blame yourself to be protective for your teenager or high school child, especially when they are actively participating in team sports. There may be times when you oppose or disagree with some decisions, practices or rules enforced by your child’s coach, and as a parent it is very important to be your child’s role model. You should be able to handle this matter responsibly. Responsible and mature communication with the coach not only sets a good example for your child and other parents, but helps resolve issues in the most effective and mature way possible.

Here are a fews Tips on how to talk to your child’s coach:

1. Make an appointment.
Call the coach and ask the best time you can talk with him in private conversation. The coach has his own duties to attend to, so be sure to set an appointment first before going to his place. Point out the issue directly, but remain to be respectful. Ensure that everybody else is gone before actually approaching the coach. Avoid having confrontations in the eyes of the public, otherwise you might appear scandalous.

2. Advance notice.
Inform the coach about the conflicts you are concerned about in advance. This enables the coach to be aware about what your conversation would be about. He can prepare whatever there is to prepare. Otherwise, last minute calls can induce stress and might be a source of heightened emotions. This kind of problem can also be avoided easily by being open or upfront.

3. Talk to the coach directly.
Do not be indirect in conveying your concerns to the coach. By being indirect means using other individuals to address the issue other than you. You are the one who truly understands what you want to imply. It is better for you to speak out to avoid misconceptions. In addition, you can ask your child questions relevant to your inquiry in order to be informed. However, do not drag them into the problem other than necessary. Kids are often embarrassed when their parents are talking to their coach, so you should use good consideration in pushing the issue if has a relevant grounds.

4. Create a positive setting.
The setting must be peaceful and quiet. This helps the listener to be more receptive. However, any place for a conversation would be fine as long as you two act responsibly and with respect for one another. Avoid conversing through electronic mails or telephone, if possible. This can bring out a lot of misunderstanding. Talking face to face is way better because you can see the person in front of you and you can better analyze what is being said.

5. Practice active listening.
Oftentimes, coaches feel overwhelmed by the complaints they are receiving from the parents. It is better if you can address your concerns concisely and briefly, then sit back and listen to his answer. Fight the urge to interrupt or repeal. Just be quiet and listen. You can summarize everything you have heard during your confrontation to clear things up. Be open to the intensity of the situation and create a calm approach because coaches feel respected this way. Have the effort to listen to what the other person has to say. Likewise, if it is time for you to speak, the coach should also listen just the way you did.

6. Convey an assertive, not an aggressive, message.
As a parent, the coach can gain an understanding as to why you are acting the way you are. The thing here is that both parties usually want to resolve the issue. In explaining your issues, be assertive and not aggressive. Do not be ruled by your intense emotions. It is very difficult to resolve issues when you feel that way. Instead, send a powerful message that can get through the defensive walls because it focuses on the problem, and not the person. Use the ideas below on how you can approach the issue.

-illustrate the circumstances in non-judgmental ways;
-Explain how it influences you and your child; and then
-Suggest ideas on how to resolve the issues.

7. Discerning before doing something
This can assist you to weigh the benefits and the disadvantages in making such actions. Discerning between right and wrong is very relevant. Appropriate issues include the mental and physical treatment of your child, your child’s conduct, insight into analyzing your child and approaches to help him succeed. Improper subjects include strategy, playing time, other teammates and referee calls.

8. Take it to the next level.
If your concerns continue and you do not think the coach is able or willing to fix the problem, take the issue to a higher level. The school principal or Athletic Director can be approached as the next step. Dealing with problems step by step will lead to a more productive result, however, if one side of the party is unwilling to back down, things might become worse. You should be able to contact the athletic director of the school.

Since situations vary a lot it is important to assume the worst and be ready for it. The ideas mentioned above do not guarantee 100% success rate, however, they will most likely improve your chances of having a productive discussion with the coach. It takes a lot of practice to change communication habits, but if you can make active listening your first priority and stay focused on the problem, then you can build stronger, more positive relationship for parents, coaches and players.

In dealing with issues, it is always wise to be objective. Attack the problem and not the person. Otherwise, resolution is impossible to achieve. Both parties must learn to give way and they must let each other speak out for what they know and believe in. With these issues, pride is not going to be the center of it all, but personal principles.

[info_box]Picture credit: WM ChamberlainCreative Commons Attribution[/info_box]
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About Author

I have been playing Basketball for as long as I can remember and coaching from the age of sixteen. My blog, Layups.com, has been created to help Basketball lovers from all skill levels to improve their game. I hope that you find my blog both useful and entertaining!

12 Comments

    • Stacey, you are obviously a coach. I think the article is well written as I am a coach and a parent. Your comment, however, just shows the arragance of some coaches. “we are better that the mere parents”. Your athletes would not be there if not for the parents. Show some respect.

      • Tim
        Wonderfully put. I am a concerned parent of a female basketball player. I am trying to learn how to communicate with the head Coach who appear not to have the best interest of my child’s goal. It is hard to remain silent when you see and hear your child complaining about how hard they work but do not get rewarded. My child is not getting the playing time she deserve and she is a great player. Out of an entire game, she only plays 4mins if she is lucky. Her talent is well needed on the team. If you like to see for your self, email me and I will forward you a link to her youtube video.

        • Darrell, I do not know the circumstances or details of your daughters situation. All I can offer are some tips to approaching it in a respectful and productive manner.
          1. Attend A Practice – Do not tell your daughter your are going to be there. Try to watch the practice without your daughter knowing you are there. Is she in the proper position for the drills? Does she pay attention to the coach? Is she distracting? Do the coaches have to instruct her on the same point, multiple times? I have found most playing time concerns resolved, once the parents sees how their child is practising.
          2. Ask Your Daughter Why She Doesn’t Play More – If she doesn’t know, that is half the issue. Either she hasn’t asked or she doesn’t want to tell you.
          3. Tell Your Daughter To Ask The Coach – By your daughter asking, it enables her to learn independence and accountability. Parents too often “fix” everything for their children. They also learn that if they ‘whine’ to their parents, then they’ll get what they want. Get her to ask. Before hand, go over the proper way to listen and ensuring the question is direct to the issue. Why does Sarah get to play more than me?, is not the way to phrase the question. It comes across as whiny and detrimental to the team/team atmosphere. What areas to I need to improve on, that will increase my role on the team? Phrasing it this way stays away from keywords that put a coach on defence. Keywords such as “minutes” or “playing time”, infer that the player is only interested in themselves.
          4. Unsatisfactory Coaches Response – If the coach doesn’t give your daughter an answer that you are satisfied with: vague or non-informative, ask for a meeting. Ensure that you request that an unbiased third-party be there for mediation (school administrator), as well as ensure that your daughter is present. Often times, children do not properly communicate or listen. I have told players what areas to improve upon and they communicated to their parents that I mentioned a skill that they were proficient at. Thus, creating a defensive response from their parents. Having the child in the meeting creates accountability for their actions. Eliminates the “Telephone Effect” (A child’s game, demonstrating the difference between listening and hearing).

          The most important point to remember and by far the hardest, is to try and maintain an open mind. Your daughter may not be a good as you think her to be. Individual skills, alone with a ball, doesn’t always correlate to being a good basketball player, or team player. I have coached many kids, where I have had to bench them, because they did not play as part of a team. They were wonderfully skilled individual players, but could not operate on a team. This made the team weaker. Benching them motivated them to develop team aspects to their game.

          You are looking out for your child’s goals. The coach is required to lookout for all of the children’s goals. Sometimes an individual’s goals conflict or do not work with the goals of the team. The coaches job is to do what is best for the team and not just for your daughter.

      • Tim, there is no arrogance in Stacey’s comment, but more accurately, frustration. Frustration of dealing with over-zealous parents, most of whom believe their child is the next superstar. Parents are passionate about their children, as they should be, but that powerful emotion tends to lead to other powerful emotions when they feel their child is being “wronged”. Those moments of overwhelming emotions tend to be released on well-meaning coaches. When you have coached for a while, you will experience your share of these moments. I believe Stacey was not airing an attitude of arrogance but merely wishing parents would follow these steps. Following these steps would lead to more efficient solutions to problems; perceived or actual.

        Of the hundreds of coaches I have mentored, taught or interacted with, few have had the notion or belief that they were “.. better [than] the mere parents”, while 10% of the parents I have coached for have said they would do a better job of coaching. With 90% of the parents I have mediated parent-coach meetings with, claiming to be able to do a better job. None of which, when offered, would take the job. The reality is that the parents are going to fight for what they perceive is best for their child (as is their job), while the coach is going to fight for what they believe is best for the team (as is their job).

        All the coaches I have instructed or mentored, are required to know and practice techniques of diffusing emotional situations. They do not require this knowledge and ability for the “blue moon” times, but for weekly or daily interactions with parents. That is simply the reality of coaching.

        Yes, the athletes would not be there if not for the parents, but the athletes would not be there if not for the coaches. It is a two way street. Of which I believe Stacey was trying to point out. Also note that the coaches, often volunteer, are there to give back, to give to the children, while the players and parents are their to take.

        I know far more coaches, good coaches, who quit because of parents. More so than any other reason combined.

    • Stacey, one thing you may find useful is to have a “Parents Meeting” at the beginning of the season. In that meeting, you should outline the appropriate manner in which to raise issues. Including; not using their children as puppets (talking through their children), how particular issues need to be raised and the proper times in which to raise them. I personally outline a couple of steps that need to be taken, before I will address any playing time issues. I also make it very clear that the only communication to occur on game days are wishes of luck pre-game, remarks of congratulations/condolences post-game or details concerning recent events that may hamper the ability of the player to attend practices or games. All other communication can wait 24 hours, the world is not going to end :) . This 24-hour cooling off period, allows for emotions, on both sides, to subside, as well as time for both sides to gather their thoughts; allowing for the conversation to be more respectful and productive.

      Although the meeting will not get rid of all emotional outbursts, I have found it to significantly reduse them. As well as it increases the efficiency of the communication throughout the season, as I merely need to remind parent of the points outlined in the meeting. Having a handout, clearly stating the main points, is a good reference for the parents to have. Including it with the game/practice schedule, usually ensures that the parents know where it is.

  1. i coach girls basketball and have a parent meeting, in which i give every parent the expectations as a coach, the player and the parent. In order for their daughter to have a great season all three of us need to be on the same page. I also tell the parents not fight your daughter’s battle unless she is not getting heard by her coach. I try to educate the parent that it is time for your daughter to learn how to speak up for herself if she feels she is getting mistreated or not getting any respect.

  2. I am a parent of a high school athlete who sits on the bench more than she plays. I have read all the comments here and have kept an open mind and considered both the coaches and parents comments. I understand that of course parents can be protective of their child, but let’s talk about how critical high school years are to the growth of a child. I do not understand how selecting a player to be on a team and not using them is in the best interest of the child. It is the coach’s responsibility to build the player’s confidence with positive reinforcement. If the player’s attitude is poor then the coach should be taking that player aside to find out what the problem is and to help that player improve his or her game through positive feedback and individual attention. If the player feels like they have their coach’s support in helping them be all they can be then the child would have a better attitude, don’t you think? Sitting the player on the bench without trying to improve their skills during practice is going to give the player low self-esteem, low confidence, and of course their going to have a bad attitude. Sports should be about the team as a whole…not just playing the best players to win.

    • Lexi,
      I just wanted to say thank you for your post on this subject. I found this web page while googling how to talk to my daughter’s volleyball coach about her lack of playing time. I appreciate what you had to say about improving skills and building self esteem. My daughter is a junior in high school, made the varsity team, started in the first four preseason games and then a sophmore player started playing over her. My daughter asked her coach what she needed to do to earn her spot back and the reply was “work harder”. It’s very frustrating for her and painful for me, as her mother, to watch. I haven’t said anything to the coach, as he has a parents can’t talk to the coach policy. I never thought I would be in this postition. Sadly, her attitude and self confidence has gone down so much over the season. She continues to support her team mates and cheer for them from the bench. I don’t know how to support this coach and still support my daughter. I guess I continue to google the topic and figure out the best way to calmly discuss the situation after the season is over. Thanks again.

  3. Thank you all for the info. .. I would like to begin with, my son is a eighth grader who made the high school varsity basketball team. but his coach will not give me any playing time.if he’s good enough to make the team how come he’s not playing?I sat in on a couple of practice and I noticed that he’s holding his own. but when it comes to game time the coach never plays him. I talk to my son about the situation, and told him to go to the coach ask the coach what do we need to do to get more playing time . Because response you’re playing behind a senor guard when he’s having a bad game you can get opportunity to play. a few weeks went by, and I told my son to ask the coach can you moving down to JV and now the coach has like a personal vendetta against my son what should I do

  4. Colin, what about the coach that seems to be coaching for his son on the football team? Coach is passionate about his son, as he should be, but that powerful emotion tends to lead to other powerful emotions when he feels his son has been “wronged”. His son can’t block or catch and he’s playing both junior varsity and varsity football. The coach puts his son in on varsity games and the players feel the coach has “given up on them” – their words.

    The “parent meeting”. Same every year with the AD telling everyone he’s been at the school for 25+ years. (Time for a change!), you have a problem – talk to the coach first, then him, then the building principal, and so forth. That’s all really nice and all,but parents year after year after year have been voicing concern over this guys coaching ability and nothing changes. What in the world is wrong with parents wanting more from the high school football program? The coach calls plays off a script he writes out before the game – no changing based on what is happening at the game. This high school varsity football! The quarterback has to run over to the sideline after every play to get the next play from the coach – half of the time confusing the quarterback with incomplete information. Can’t call one in or send one I with the running back or receiver. This is high school varsity football! Its not unusual for games to start off with a delay of game penalty on the first play. This is high school varsity football! I expect a lot out of my children and even more from the adults in their life and this coach is sorely missing leadership skills.

    Yes, I am passionate about my children and all the others on this team that have been playing football since 6th grade together dreaming of playing on Friday night. It could be so much more.

    Amy

  5. How do u feel about a coach telling you, as a parent of a student athlete, that your child isn’t athletic enough that’s why she doesn’t play? My daughter has played basketball for 6 years in jr high and high school. She started in third grade playing club ball thru our PAL league. She is short and has meat on her, however, for her size she can move. So with all the coaches out there, please someone give me your honest opinion. Thank you!!!

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