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Effective Tips for Talking to Coaches

If your child plays organized sports, there’s a good chance you will need to discuss an issue or problem with a coach. Regardless of the issue, your goal should be to work with the coach to reach a resolution that is best for everyone – your child, the team, the coach and you.

How you deliver your message will have a significant affect on whether you will be heard and whether your concerns will be addressed. If the issue is serious, don’t be afraid to talk with the coach. After all, you are your child’s only advocate. If you remain silent or let a problem fester too long, the situation may only get worse and finding a resolution will be more difficult. 

This information is included in our Guide to Youth Sports. Click here to see the rest of the guide.

Here are a few tips to help ensure communication with your child’s coach is positive and productive:

Approach your conversation in a cooperative, respectful and pleasant manner.

As a parent, you are heavily invested in your child’s well-being, as well as being emotionally invested. But if you let your emotions take control of the discussion, you risk angering the very person – the coach – who can help your child succeed in athletics. So stay level-headed. Understand that the coach must balance the needs of individual players with the collective needs of the team. Coaches have the challenge of hearing and accommodating all their players, not just one.

Avoid talking to the coach right after a game or competition.

Emotions often run high after games, especially when a team loses. This is not a good time to approach a coach with complaints about playing time or suggestions about game strategy. Unless it’s an emergency, wait a day or two to bring your concerns to the coach. Gather your thoughts. Check your emotions. You just might discover that what was so important at the time is not worth pursuing.

If, after a cool-down period, you still feel the need to approach the coach, contact him or her and schedule a time to meet. Make sure the meeting provides enough privacy so everyone can talk freely and enough time so no one feels rushed.

Remain calm and use an appropriate tone of voice.

The old adage “It’s not what you say but how you say it” comes into play here. If you approach a coach in an angry or accusatory fashion, he or she is more inclined to dismiss your concern, and your message will get lost in the delivery. The right tone is a calm, even, conversational tone that fosters a feeling of cooperation and openness.

State your concerns, listen and keep an open mind.

State your concern in a straightforward and nonjudgmental manner, sticking to the facts. For example, blurting out, “Jasmine doesn’t have much playing time, and she thinks you don’t like her,” will only put the coach on the defensive. Instead, take a non-accusatory stance: “It seems like Jasmine is playing less. Is there a problem I should be aware of?” Here, you are inviting dialogue and requesting help, not making accusations. 

Listen to the coach’s response so you can fully understand the situation and mutually work toward a positive solution. Compromise may be in order. Sometimes, however, the coach’s decision won’t be what you want. This is a perfect opportunity to teach your child that you sometimes have to accept an authority figure’s final word, even if you disagree with it. (You have the right to take your concerns to another authority figure like the athletic director. But remember that he or she will most likely defer to a coach’s decisions.)

As a parent, it’s up to you to set an example for your child on how to handle confrontation and disagreement with maturity and composure. 

Learn more about this topic in Competing with Character: Let's Put Sportmanship and Fun Back Into Youth Sports by Kevin Kush, M.A., with Michael Sterba, M.H.D.

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