When a young athlete has a conflict with their coach, it’s often hard for parents to know exactly how to handle it. It’s tempting to immediately interfere and email the coach on behalf of your child, but that’s not always the best solution for your growing athlete.
Helping your athlete advocate for themselves and deal with conflict head-on, rather than relying on you to have the hard conversations, is going to be better for your child in the long-term. Nadia Kyba, MSW, TrueSport Expert and President of Now What Facilitation, shared these tips for smooth coach-parent communication when it comes to conflict.
Ideally, a coach will have a meeting with parents of players earlier in the season, but if the coach doesn’t organize one, consider asking to set one up. Kyba explains that this early discussion of what the season looks like, how the coach approaches conflict, and the best ways to communicate with him or her can avoid conflict entirely or provide a script for how to deal with it when it does happen.
“Having that meeting at the beginning of the season can let you and the coach discuss expectations about how to manage conflicts, as well as setting boundaries around certain communication methods and meeting times.” She adds that a good rule is to avoid meeting or communicating with a coach within 24 hours of a competition or race to allow time for all parties to cool off from any conflicts.
Remember, coaches have a lot of demands on their time, and at the school sport level, likely aren’t getting paid much to lead the team. There is a lot of pressure on them, and parents often forget this when they feel their athletes are being ignored or under-appreciated.
“Sometimes, it’s a full-time job just managing the parents,” Kyba notes. “I’ve seen many coaches who are so generous with their time, they’re so committed and passionate, and they just want to coach – but actually what they’re doing is getting bombarded by emails from parents.”
Before you send an annoyed email, bear in mind that your child may be dealing with a conflict, but the coach is likely inundated with other issues as well.
This applies to both how you approach a coach and how you speak to your athlete about the coach, says Kyba. It’s likely that you’re inclined to side with your child in a conflict situation but remember that insulting the coach in front of your athlete encourages them to lose respect for the coach as well.
“We all have people we don’t really like, but we still need to respect or get along with them, and that’s an important lesson for kids to learn from you,” says Kyba. Additionally, yelling at a coach is likely going to embarrass your child more than it helps them.