Baseball season wrapped up a few weeks ago, and my son is already excited to play again next spring. This was his third year to play and he was assigned to a team with a wonderful, supportive coach. His coach was mild-mannered, but if the kids weren’t playing well, he’d let them know in a way that was appropriate for correcting the way kindergarteners play the game of baseball.
My son’s last two coaches, while kind and well-meaning, were obviously overwhelmed with other responsibilities besides their coaching duties. They often missed games and weren’t really experienced enough to teach the fundamentals of the game. And you know, that’s okay, other parents stepped in when the coaches were absent and we remembered that our kids were four- and five-year-olds and not exactly playing big league ball.
This year, one of the teams in our league, had the most obnoxious, angry coach that I had ever seen in person. He berated the kids for their mistakes, constantly barked orders at his players on the field, and was disrespectful to children and coaches from the other teams. It was horrifying as a parent to watch this coach’s behavior and not imagine how I would handle the situation if my son had been on the receiving end of his attacks.
While there are a lot of parents who undermine sports coaches with their own foul behavior, there are situations — like this one — where it would be necessary to intervene. With years of sports ahead for my son, I hope that he’ll never have to deal with an out-of-control coach, but if he does, I’m going to be prepared with a plan.
Here are a few tips for dealing with a difficult coach.
1. Find an Ally on the Team
Surely if the coach’s behavior is that shocking, other parents must notice it, too. Get a feel for how other parents feel about his behavior. It’s not only reassuring to know that you aren’t alone with your concerns, but it might be helpful to find an ally, which you’d definitely need if the situation were to escalate.
2. Talk Directly to the Coach
Ask to speak with the coach privately away from the game in a non-confrontational way. Choose your words carefully, but beginning the conversation with “We have some concerns” is a good place to start. If the coach seems overwhelmed, offer to help with some of the responsibilities like bench coaching, paperwork, or providing snacks.
3. Talk to Your Child
Use this situation as a teachable moment about sportsmanship. We all have encountered people throughout our lives that are hard to deal with and obnoxious. Let your child know that you are concerned about how the coach behaves and that you are proud of their performance on the field (or court, pool, gym, etc.) no matter what the coach may say.
4. Speak with a League Representative
Unfortunately, the coach may continue to have outbursts despite your attempts at intervention. Someone in charge of the league may need to deal with the situation. Document the coach’s behavior and your attempts to reason with him, as well as information from your allies to support your concerns.
5. Request That Your Child Be Transferred to Another Team
As a last resort, your child may need to be removed from the team. To be transferred to another team may require building a relationship with another team’s coach. If it’s not possible to be transferred to another team, your family will have to make the decision if playing that season is worth the hassle of continuing to deal with the awful coach or if sitting out the rest of the season might be necessary to keep the child loving the game.
(photo credit: Flickr)
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