Sports parents seem to think that because they can see what takes place on the field, it makes them amateur experts. A head football coach said, “I’ve eaten out at restaurants my entire life, and never have I once gone back to the kitchen to tell the cook, ‘This is how you should prepare the meal.'” Coaches devote their time, energy and expertise to their passion. Their livelihood is based on knowing the nuances and personnel of preparation and execution. Frankly, it’s their job to know more than you! Even at the recreational level, they have devoted more time.
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As parents, we must accept that our perception is skewed because of our emotional investment. To illustrate, imagine you are at a youth football game and the quarterback throws two consecutive interceptions. Do you boo and criticize the kid who threw the ball? Probably not, because this is youth football. So after our initial reaction, we don’t boo. But we are still upset. Our anger has to go somewhere. So we say something like, “Why does coach keep calling so many pass plays?”
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Simply put, there are good and not-so-good coaches. And our kids learn from both. They learn the healthy way to treat others, and how to communicate with others, and also, unfortunately, the unhealthy ways. But kids need to be free to form their own opinions and experience situations without our coloring their perceptions.
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Criticizing a coach’s play calling, offensive schemes or decisions about playing time does much harm to a situation. A youth coach once said that he knows when parents are talking about him behind his back: “The kids start not to look me in the eye.” Sad.
Lessons learned in sports transfer to life away from sports. There are going to be good bosses and not-so-good bosses. If we wouldn’t call our child’s boss, why would we call the coach?
Mike Lingenfelter is director of Munciana Volleyball, a nationally ranked program. He knows coaching. One of his young daughters had a particularly rough season with a basketball coach. At the end of the season, Mike met with the coach and thanked him for the time he had devoted to the team. His wife, a bit confused, asked how he could actually thank someone whom they thought had done a poor job?
Coach Lingenfelter understood that coaches make a sacrifice of time away from their own families, regardless of the quality of their craft. He thanked the coach for his time, not for his coaching style, and that was all that needed to be said.
Are coaches among the most important people in today’s society? Anyone can count shots, laps or drills, but as coach Robert Taylor said, “We don’t count reps, we coach reps.” We remember the good coaches who made an impact in our lives and the great coach who made a deep and profound impact. We even recall the bad coaches who showed us how not to operate or communicate.
Everyone can use a coach.
Unfortunately, coaches no longer receive their due appreciation. The opposite has occurred; they have become lightning rods for parents’ dissatisfaction. Parents complain, yell and even write anonymous emails to coaches, administrators and other parents. Coaches are pestered with questions about playing time, like “why didn’t my kid start, or play more.” Worse, coaches are even questioned about other kids’ performances, for instance, “why is he/she playing?” It is demoralizing for coaches who have to deal with complaining parents. That’s why sports parents should not talk to coaches—except to thank them.