It’s another sports season and that means parents are running around and trying to figure out how they will manage to get their kids to practices and games. We’ve bought all the equipment, upgraded shoes, and knocked all the grass out of last season’s sports bags.
It also means coaches are planning out where practices will be, when they can use the fields, fitting time into their own schedules, and trying to remember each player’s names and unique things about them.
I’m taking a sabatical from coaching and hope to get back into it someday. I spent 8 years as a soccer coach and 3 years as a baseball coach. I know the frustrations that both coaches and parents can have during a sports season. Soon I will write a post about what parents want from coaches, but this post will cover what the coach needs from parents.
1. Be on time: If a coach says practice starts at 5:00, that doesn’t mean you’re dropping the player off at 5:00. That means the player is on the field next to the coach at 5:00. Getting out of a car at 5:00 is late. It is always better to arrive at practices early. When kids arrive at practice, they mess around or chat with their teammates. Once practice starts, that’s when they stretch and warm-up. If they are walking across the field at 5, they missed stretching. Also, if one player is late, other players might believe they can be late. Lateness ruins a team’s dynamic.
2. Parents need to leave the coaching up to the coach. It is confusing for players when parents are yelling one thing while their coach is yelling another. Even if a parent knows more about the sport than the coach, they are taking credibility away from the coach while yelling instructions. The coach sees the field and knows the capabilities of every player. A parent knows their child. The coach has spent time with all the players. There may be a different plan than what the parents are seeing. Also, it does no good for a parent to yell during a game. Cheer, but other than that, keep the berating to yourself.
3. During team meetings, stay away. After a certain age, it is unnecessary for parents to listen in on the huddle. Once parents approach the huddle, the players begin to look around at their parents and believe the game/practice is over. Just stay away till it breaks. While I’m giving last minute advice or even coming down on a player for behaving in an unsportsmanlike way, I don’t need him looking around to see if his parent hears.
4. We see the team and not just one player. I’ll use a baseball analogy here. Let’s say I’ve got one great pitcher and he is a good fielder. Let’s also say I’ve got a good pitcher, but a bunch of players with mediocre gloves. I will need to put that great pitcher in the field where a lot of balls are getting through and put the good pitcher on the mound. Sure, I’ll stick the great pitcher on the mound when I can, but most of the time will field in areas where the biggest gaps are. A great player at a position might not get to play that position because they can help the team in another area. So you might think your kid is the best player on the team and wonder why they are stuck in an unglamorous position. There’s a reason and it is a team-first reason.
5. Don’t talk bad about the coach at home. When you speak ill words about the coach at home, it starts an infestation. First, it affects your player. They don’t want to listen to the coach and believe there are better ways. That spreads to other players and soon the coach has lost the team. The coach will find out what you are saying and that is not a fun conversation to have.
6. This is not your glory moment, it is your kids. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come off the field and heard from a parent, “when I was playing… In college… While I was playing in Europe…” I don’t care how good of a player you were. Playing and coaching/managing a team of kids is different. Let your child develop their own memory.
7. I understand you’ve been playing in the park or the backyard with your kid for years and watching games with them. But you haven’t spent time on the field with them during a practice. The kid you tossed a ball back and forth with or kicked a ball into a goal with differs from the one running with teammates. You need to accept that maybe, in a team setting, your player’s team skills need work.
8. Don’t feed them junk food the day of a game. I can’t tell you how many times kids have told me they stopped at McDonald’s on the way to a game. After about 30 minutes of running in the hot sun, those fries and burgers bubble their way up. The same goes for soda. Don’t give soda to a player before a game. Sure, they might think they have a sugar rush, but once that sugar burns off, they are tired and crashing. Plain old water works just fine.
9. Tell your players to help clean the field. Helping a coach pick up cones and garbage goes a long way. I feel a great sense of pride when I see my players clearing a field after play. When coaches see this behavior, it makes them believe the player is not just a part of the team for themselves but has bought into the “we” attitude. It also helps them decide who the leaders are.
10. Parents, please have fun. I see your faces after the game. They should look happy. Win or lose, your child was doing something they love to do. You took the time in your day to make sure they got there. It was a beautiful moment regardless of the outcome. Smile at your player when they come off the field, give them a hug and an encouraging word. Don’t lay into them by reminding them all about the bad plays. The same goes for the coach. Give the coach a handshake and say “thank you.”
Coaches and parents have a partnership. They both have the players best interest at heart. But there’s more than that with the coach. The coach also has the team’s best interest at heart. Your player has been absorbed into a team and is no longer an individual. My easiest players to work with over the years are the ones with parents that gave me the freedom to place their child wherever I wanted despite their wishes to have the kid in the highest profile positions. My favorite parents are the one who cheers the whole team on. They know each player’s name and congratulate them when they do things right and encourage through struggles. Be that parent and your child will be happier. So will the coach and the team.
My fellow coaches, what would you add to the list?
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