Thursday October 30 2014
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Coaches Need to Connect

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We often hear coaches talk about how honest and open communication with their players helps to build a strong team. If players know their roles, they can perform at their highest possible levels of their genetic potential.

Coaches are specific in how they instruct their players to perform a certain skill, or to play a particular position in their given game.

Coaches are also given high marks when they spell out how much playing time they anticipate they will be giving each player. An honest assessment of their skill set and abilities. There is no mystery about playing time. No questions about "why isn't Coach putting me in the game?"

For anyone coaching youngsters, it is important to include these kind of expectations when talking directly to the girls and boys they coach. Even a written set of expectations might help. Successful coaches should also communicate with the parents, who entrust the coaches with the responsibility of leading their children.

In youth sports, our children have many wonderful opportunities to play a whole host of sports. The focus, especially in the pre-teen years, is always on equal playing time – or close to equal playing time. That's because some kids are late bloomers, and that's because we should give our kids time to develop their skills and confidence.

But when we approach the high school years, it's often a time to face the truth. Sometimes it's a calm realization. Other times it's a cold slap in the face. When our girls and boys are in their junior high years, tryouts determine who makes the squad. Coaches chose their players based on talent, and then doll out playing time to the more talented players, in an effort to win the game. If we are honest with ourselves, our children could probably tell us who should be the starters, who should play where, how much, etc.

But here's where parents have the tough time, myself included: when our evaluation of our children don't match their coach's evaluation. However bitter we feel about seeing our pride and joy sit on the sidelines, we need to make this a teachable moment. Maybe it's the time when we have that heart-to-heart talk with our son or daughter. Our parental responsibility to be honest with our kids. It could be time to encourage them to train harder to become a better player. We could encourage our children to be stand-up teammates and support the players on the field. And then be ready to play their hardest when the time comes for them to play. Or maybe it's the time to help our children explore other sports or activities. We could help our children transition from giving up a sport that may have passed them by, and introduce them to a whole new world.

There are horror stories of parents calling coaches names, and threatening violence. Parents confronting coaches right after games about playing time. Parents writing anonymous letters and mailing them to the coach's home, explaining how bad their coaching is. Yes, parents of teenagers conducting themselves in this way.

Let these immature examples encourage us to open the lines of communication. Coaches and parents have to put our children first. Even when we disagree, we need to teach our children respect and honesty trump all. Yes, even playing time.