What Your Teen’s Coach Wished You Knew
As the school year approaches, many team sports are already in full swing with tryouts, open gym, and practices. High school sports offer teens a multitude of benefits, and a good coach can really make a big difference in a teen’s life. But, parents don’t always see eye-to-eye with coaches. While one parent may be concerned about a child’s lack of playing time, another parent may be concerned about the team dynamics.
Youth sports are an excellent way for teens to develop self-confidence, to exercise and create good health habits, to learn to work as a team, and to just have fun. However, the adults in their lives – namely the coach and the parents – must develop a good partnership to make this a positive experience.
Here are a few tips from coaches about how parents can support them, as well as help their teen to do their best:
Understand that a Team is a Serious Commitment
“It’s unfair to the players, who are putting in the time during practices and pre-season to work on their athletic skills, to have a teammate show up every now and then, who not only expects to play, but is not performing at the same level as the rest of the players,” said Mark Duncan, Athletic Director at The Shipley School in Pennsylvania.
The best teammates are those you can count on. They don’t skip practices, they always show up for games, and they try their hardest. This type of person is valued on a team even more than the most talented person. Teach your child the value of commitment by having them invest the time it takes be a loyal teammate. If your teen wants to join a team, but has other conflicting engagements, talk to the coach ahead of time to see if they believe his/her participation will still work.
Finally, you should recognize the commitment the coach has made. Coaches, who are paid little to nothing, invest many, many hours of preparation beyond the hours spent at practices and games.
“Only a very small percentage of high school athletes are able to continue their careers in college and a very minute percentage eventually plays professionally. If those things happen, that is great, but those should not be the goals of playing in high school. Your child is only a high school athlete for a short period of time. Enjoy that time together, help each other through the difficult times, and do all you can to make the experience a memorable and educational experience for everyone involved!” -Brian Williams, former basketball coach and Athletic Director in Indiana.
Do Not Complain in Front of Your Teen
“Most parents don’t realize when we speak negatively of a coach, kids pick up on this and begin to look negativity at the coach and will lose interest. This happens because without question, it give kids a valid reason to fail, or give up,” said Mark Robinson, San Francisco Bay Area Basketball Youth and Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) coach.
When parents share their disapproval of a coach, the youth either feels unhappy with the coach and starts grumbling at practices, or the youth feels torn between two important adults in his or her life. Neither situation helps a teen do his or her best. If you think your child’s coach is not handling a situation well, schedule a meeting with the coach in which you can talk with him or her about it privately and when your emotions have had a chance to calm down.
Choose Good Sportsmanship
Good sportsmanship is an important value in team playing, which means you should do two things:
- Model good sportsmanship as a parent. Don’t show disrespect for the other team or the officials. Never berate anyone on or off the field/court (including referees and coaches), but speak in a respectful manner. Tell the other team that they played well, regardless of whether your team won or lost.
- Don’t underestimate the value of choosing a good program. Take a hard look at the character of the program’s coaching staff. Are the coaches passionate about what they do, honest and ethical, knowledgeable of the game, willing to go above and beyond to develop your teen? Make sure they model the same type of good sportsmanship you expect from your teen.
Encourage Your Teen to Address Issues Directly With a Coach
“My preference is always to have the players come and talk directly to me about any problems, before the parent. Players have a better idea of team dynamics, game situations, and coach tendencies and are in a better position to address these issues more effectively. Having kids speak directly with coaches also helps them resolve their own conflicts, which is great practice for dealing with future problems on and off the field. I do encourage parents to talk to me about safety issues or to ask how their child can improve. Some off limits areas for talks with a coach include playing time and players other than your child.” –Alex Bondy, New York City Volleyball Coach.
Be a Cheerleader
As a parent, your role in your teen’s sports is to be their number one fan and supporter. You are not one of the coaches, so do not give your child instructions about how to play. It can be very confusing for a child to hear someone other than the coach yelling out instructions during a game. It is also a good idea for parents to attend their teen’s games, but not watch their practices. When kids play while parents are watching, they are more withdrawn.
If you don’t respect a coach’s authority or appreciate their good intentions, then your teen won’t either. Your kids are watching you. Make them proud, not embarrassed. If coaches and parents work together to create a positive atmosphere, you will be helping to create great memories, positive self-esteem, and strong athletic abilities for your child.