Back when I was a fresh-faced, 20-something, I decided to enter the world of coaching. I played basketball for three years at Susquehannock, and when I saw my alma mater had an opening for a 7th and 8th grade girls’ coach, I jumped at the chance.
I was so excited to work with the middle school girls. But never, in all my preseason planning, did I anticipate what I was truly about to deal with: The parents.
The girls were great. The parents? Not so much. I had one father charge at me after practice — a 40-something getting into the face of a 21-year-old. I was scared that day. (This is why so many youth leagues have parents sign behavior contracts. Because grown men and women don’t know how to contain themselves).
I left coaching five years later to pursue my master’s. I was sad to leave but happy — actually relieved — that there were certain people I wouldn’t have to see, er, hear, again.
Fast forward to now, and my 10-year-old son is playing basketball for the first time. He loves the sport, and he seems to have some natural ability. The kids like their coach and all seem to get along.
So I was surprised when my son came home and told me that a father made a ruckus during practice because he didn’t agree with how they were running drills. Even more surprised when I got an email from the coach later stating that the father pulled his son from the team.
I was appalled. This isn’t the NBA, folks. These are 8- to 10-year olds. Get a grip.
Here are a few of my pet peeves about ‘those parents’:
- “I could do a better job coaching.” Then why aren’t you? Raise your hand to coach. Volunteers are desperately needed everywhere.
- “My son/daughter should be starting/playing more.” Guess what? Everyone thinks that. You are not objective. And nothing is more off-putting than bashing your kid’s teammate to make your point. If you wouldn’t tell the mom next to you that her kid sucks, don’t say it to the coach. Makes you look petty.
“Why did she call that play/make that substitution/not call timeout, etc?” You might not understand a decision because you aren’t tuned in to what the coach is trying to achieve. Instead of belittling, have a philosophy discussion with the coach (at an appropriate time in an appropriate manner. If you aren’t sure what that is, then I weep for you.) You might not agree, but hey, see point No. 1. Making game decisions under pressure is not easy. Nor is trying to yell instructions to a player when his parent is yelling the opposite. Be quiet.
“We should’ve won that game.” Coaches can’t physically play the game for the kids. Players will forget/mess up/not listen during games. Some won’t want to give 100 percent. Coaches can only do so much.
And here are some tips for parents:
1. Don’t let your kid bash their teammates. Everyone has a bad game. Yours could be next. Ask them what they could’ve done better.
2. Don’t raise/encourage a ball-hog. No one likes it. And regardless of what you think, your child alone can’t win a game. I’ve yet to see it happen.
3. Thank your coach. Coaching takes time and effort away from family. Appreciate the fact that your coach is spending time with your kid instead of their own.
4. Volunteer to help. It’s tough to give every kid individual attention when they are all at different skill levels. If you help, the coach can focus more on who needs what.
5. Work with your child. Think he’s not getting what he needs at practice? Take him/her to the playground and work on layups or free throws. Make it fun. I can whip out at least 5 fun drills on the spot.
6. Temper your expectations. Unless Coach K is knocking down your door, odds are you are not raising a hoops star. And even if your youth or middle school kid is good, that doesn’t always translate to varsity success. I’ve seen that. Too much pressure = kids that burnout. Give him/her a break.
6. Kids exaggerate. Yes, even yours. If your child is upset with a coach, remember there are two sides to every story (unless it’s a safety/abuse issue. Go with your gut on that). Encourage your child to talk to the coach. My rule was that I wouldn’t talk to a parent until I’ve spoken with the player.
Any other tips to offer?