Let’s get one thing straight, right out of the gate: A whole ton of kids’ coaches are volunteers, just like umpires and referees. They’re involved in what they do because they either love their sport, or they love kids, or love teaching, or some combination of the three. Coaches are more often than not underrated, underpaid and under-appreciated. So before we talk about a “bad coach”, we should be ready to clearly define what there is in the term “bad coach” that resonated enough with you to click the title of this piece.
1) If the coach doesn’t respect (or nurture) your child’s ability: Job One for any coach is to keep the kids safe. Job Two is to teach the fundamentals of the game, including things like sportsmanship. Job Three is, when possible, to win some games. If your child isn’t getting the playing time you think they deserve, you have a couple of options:
- Have your child approach the coach directly. This one might seem counterintuitive, but it’s more than likely the best solution. After the game, or at the next practice, have your child ask the coach what they could do better. Tell them not to complain; that’s the last thing the coach needs to hear. It’s no different than you having a conversation with your boss. Ask what needs to be improved, or what role on the team they’re best suited for.
- Talk to the coach with your child. Same as above, just tag along. In the best case scenario, ask the coach if there’s extra practise you can do privately with your child to help the coach get the most out of your child’s performance and abilities.
- Approach the coach on your own. The key to all three of these points is to avoid being “one of those parents”. Even if there’s a situation where the coach’s own kid is on the team and they’re getting a ton of playing time, a confrontational attitude isn’t going to improve anything. Wait for the right time and place, and talk through it calmly. Make your feelings clear, and be prepared to hear that your kid might be the weak link on the team. If that’s the case, ask the coach how you can help.
2) If the coach refuses to help your child
If you’ve tried one (or all) of the above and there’s no satisfactory resolution, you’ve got additional options. But remember, these should be used in cases where the coach isn’t doing their job properly, not because you have a difference of opinion about their style.
- Talk to one of the assistants. If the team has more than one coach, or the coach has assistants, who knows? Maybe it’s just a personality thing. If you still feel strongly, maybe get a second opinion.
- Take it up with the league. Whether the next rung on the ladder is the league, a Board of Directors or a coaches’ association, find out who’s next on the food chain who can hear your case.
- Fix the problem from the inside. If you can do a better job, become a coach (or an assistant) yourself. But remember that doing a better job means doing a better job for everyone, not just for your own child.
3) If the coach engages in inappropriate behaviour
While we’re all familiar with stories of abuse by coaches that have made news in virtually all sports at all levels on both sides of the border, inappropriate behaviour can include a variety of things, including showing up under the influence, or teaching kids to play outside the rules. Depending on the circumstances, there may not be much time to waste. Talk to the coach directly, and if necessary and warranted, have extra sets of eyes look in on the situation, including parents of other players, and whoever that next person up the food chain happened to be.
Hopefully everyone remembers the reason you got your kids into sports in the first place was to keep them active, to let them have fun, and to learn important life lessons along the way. Keeping those three things in mind should guide you through what could, if mishandled, be a difficult and awkward situation.
One more thing – you’ve always got the option to find another team. Sure, it might be less convenient from a travel perspective, but it could also open up doors to new friendships, and less drama.