Let the Coaches Coach

You may have heard it said that you should lead, follow, or get out of the way…When raising children you must do all three. The trick is to know which one to do when.As I had mentioned before, many parents want to dictate every part of their child?s life. They want to guarantee that everything is perfect. They will make sure that everyone in the world treats their son or daughter exactly they way THEY think is right. Many times this is contrary to what the child wants. When it comes to your child’s coaches, you can create a number of different issues, almost none of which are a positive for your child.

Today, there are parents that treat coaches very badly. There have even been coaches and referees injured or even killed because of an overzealous parent. One very tragic incident was when one hockey dad beat another dad to death because he did not like the way the dad treated his son.

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2010/08/27/hockey-dad-releasedprison-serving-time-beating-death-mass-father/ A couple of boys lost their father. Another boy lost his father to prison. (See article above, Junta was released in 2010.)

Most situations may just be verbal arguments. They may start innocently enough. A dad thinks his son is not getting enough playing time. A mother thinks her daughter is not being given a fair opportunity to make a team. Who knows why these things escalate to serious incidents? Many times the parents involved are great people who just want things their way. They are trying to support their child. They just go too far.

Do you want to embarrass your son or daughter? Do you want them to be kicked off of a team because of you? Do you want other kids or parents talking about your child, the kid with the crazy parent? Of course not. But these can be some of the results of overzealous parenting. The thing you were trying the most to prevent is now happening. I have seen a girl crying because her dad was confronting the coach about pitching time. I have heard coaches say that they did not want a certain player on their team, not because of the player, but because of the parents.

At the recreation league levels, the city league, the Ponytail organization, YMCA, etc, the coaches are almost always volunteers. They are usually a dad or mom donating their time so your child will have a team and a coach. They may be there because they have a child playing in the organization too. But many times, and I am one example, these coaches may stay long after their child has moved on. Sometimes, maybe after their child has graduated from high school and is no longer involved in youth sports, that parent may come back to coach again, to donate their time to help a worthy cause. Coaching can be very enjoyable. The rewards for 90% of the coaches out there are not measured in dollars and cents. They are measured in the thank you’s, hugs, t-shirts, or free lunches that a player or parent may give them as a thank you for what they have done. The bigger rewards come when a player they coached years before remembers that coach for being a part of their life.

But it is not fun when a dictating parent cusses out the coach because that parent’s son did not get enough playing time today. It is not fun when they get crank calls at home because the coach selected another girl to be the starting pitcher instead of that parent’s daughter. It is especially sad because that strong-willed parent who knows how every coach should coach and thinks they know what decisions the coach should make even though they do not know the rules themselves. They will not step up to volunteer to coach or even work the snack bar when it is their turn.

It is true! Many times a volunteer coach on an 8 year and under softball team does not completely know the rules.  Maybe they do not know the things you learned when your older daughter played. But they are out there trying to help out, to do their duty, to coach that team that could not get a coach because nine or ten other sets of parents were too busy to take the team. The least you can do is to have some respect for that parent, that coach that is willing to take their time and give it so your child can enjoy a sport. Do not ruin it by belittling, arguing, harassing a good parent who is just trying to serve their community.

If you really think that coach is overwhelmed, (and sometimes they will tell you), a kind word of encouragement and an offer to help might go a long way. I have seen the opposite happen. Do not try to impress them with all of your coaching knowledge. I have seen new, rookie coaches turn down help. The reason was dumb. They did not trust the other coach offering to help because they would be competing against them. And that other coach offered their help perhaps in a wrong way.

I know it is not always easy to keep quiet when you see your child’s team losing out there. It is not easy to sit back and cheer when someone else gets to shoot the winning free throws while your son is on the bench. And if that coach makes a mistake in strategy or even knowing a rule, sometimes you have to do all you can not to jump up and shout what you think should have been done. Right or wrong, would you want someone to do that to you? Believe me it? It is even harder to keep quiet when you are a coach like I am. Not every coach is going to do things the same way you would do it, or did it when you were coaching the team. That’s okay.  Your child is going to have different people of authority over them throughout their whole life. You are not going to be there to dictate to their boss what shift the company wants your child to work. They will not care what you say when they write your 25-year-old child up for being late to work. Get the picture? Let your child learn to play for different coaches. Even if that coach is the stupidest coach you have ever seen, if they are not physically abusing your son or daughter, your child can learn just as much from that coach as they can from another coach, or from you.

You can always have some great discussions afterwards. You can talk about what you would have done differently. Better yet, ask your child what they think would have been the best thing to do. You might be surprised. How embarrassed might you be when your son or daughter tells you that the coach made the right decision because of x, y, and/or z and that you did not know what occurred in the dugout.

A coach’s job, whether as a volunteer or as a paid coach, is not always an easy one. There are many things that the coach has to consider, has to juggle, has to ponder over. You do not always know what all has gone on. You don’t even know what your kid did in the last practice they were at. Maybe your son loafed in practice, or sassed the coach, or any of a number of things, so the coach benched your son. Your son didn’t tell you. But now you are wondering why your son is not in the game so you start yelling at the coach. Then you find out. Ooops..Awkward…

A few years ago, I was coaching a travel team. There were a number of different things that occurred as far as the players we had on the team. The bottom line was that some players were not responding to my coaching. And a few parents were complaining. I finally told the manager that either everyone needed to be on the same page or the team would suffer. I told everyone that either they were going to follow the rules I had laid down for the team or they could get another coach. Few coaches would do what I did. One night the manager and I were at the ASA meeting getting ready for the state championship draw. One of the parents who was an assistant coach on the team was running the practice. I instructed him to take a vote among the players. Either they wanted me as coach and would follow my lead or they could vote me out and someone else could coach. They voted me out. I was told that some of the girls were in tears because they liked my coaching and did not think what was going on was right. Be that as it may it is not about me. It is about the team.

A few months later the team was in Las Vegas for the ASA Regionals. My daughter’s team was there as well, and as a matter of fact, my daughter’s team beat this team in a really good game and eliminated them from the tournament. The one pitcher, who was one of the girls that had somewhat rebelled at my rules, pitched a really good game and except for a few errors by her defense, might have had a chance to win the game. After the game was over, one of the moms came up to me and apologized. Wow. I was taken back. This is not something that happens often.

She told me that as parents, they know what their kid’s level of play is. And they know from their experiences what they want to see on a team level. But she said “we don’t always take into account that as coach, you have to juggle the team chemistry of all the players, to make them into one team.”   She could not have said it better. You know your child.  You don’t know all of the kids. You may not even know how your child acts when you are not around. You would not be the first parent surprised to discover this fact.

To give you just an idea of the number of decisions a coach has to make, consider the simple act of making up the lineup of a baseball or softball team. I’m not talking about each position. Let us assume your son is the starting shortstop. No questions asked. He is there. I am talking just about the batting order. Let us forget any subs. Let us forget that there might be 18 kids on the team. Let us assume that there are only 9 players on this team and they all have their positions set. The coach just needs to pick a batting order. Do you know how many combinations there are to put 9 players in a lineup?

Only 362, 880! Now what were you going to do with the rest of your spare time?