Parents, teens and Coaches, Oh My!
As schools resume around the country and we do sports physicals in preparation for the school year I can’t help but think of the challenges both parents and coaches face when teens are in sports.
I watched a heated debate on “The View” following the story of how Sean “P Diddy” Combs allegedly fought his son’s coach. Molly Sims said the coaches have no right to hurt or humiliate the kids and a parent has the right to protect their child, stating “my Momma Bear will come out to protect my child.” Whoopi on the other hand disagreed, saying, “you all need to put your kids in your pocketbooks and walk off with them. The coach’s job is to make the kids better players …. Parents need to back off and allow the coaches to do their jobs. You are not always going to be there and you need to teach your children to be respectful and disciplined.” That struck a nerve with me.
I know personally that there were several times when my kids were in sports or even in school for that matter and I would threaten to go and talk to a coach or a teacher for a perceived injustice and my teens always said “no mommy, don’t do it, I can handle it.” Looking back I’m glad I didn’t jump in and protect my child whenever they faced some adversity. Whoopi is right. Parents are not always going to be there to protect their children whenever they face a little adversity in life and we need to give them the opportunity to grow up.
How can parents and coaches work together as a team to help teens achieve their highest potential?
1. Show an interest but don’t be overbearing
I totally agree that parents should be involved when their teens are in sports. One of the ladies I work with goes to every single game her kids play. She encourages them and helps to organize car washes, bake sales etc. to help the team raise money for traveling, equipment and jerseys. The parents have a good relationship with the coaches and realize the coach has a job to do. They may not always agree with everything the coach does but they give him the benefit of the doubt, instead of just jumping in, without knowing all the facts.
2. Adversity strengthens character
One of the most painful things for a parent to watch is their son being berated in public during a game, or being left to sit on the bench, because they are not playing well. Quite honestly, every time that has happened to my child, I’ve wanted to just shout at the coach “That is unfair, you are belittling my child,” but common sense always steps in first. The beauty of it is that the teens then start practicing more seriously and give 100 % next time they are on the field. That is what life is about, that our teens when challenged can step up and excel. They develop character traits of discipline, respect for the other members of the team and learn to work hard for the team. They realize it’s not just about their own comfort, they are working together for the greater good. This quality will serve them well in the work force, because in the work force if you give less than your best, you may be handed a pink slip, which can have a significant impact on your livelihood. Allow your children to learn good personality traits now, when the stakes are not that high and this will serve them well, when it really matters.
3. Allow the coach to be the coach
It always amuses me when parents call plays from the sidelines. They don’t realize how they confuse and embarrass their teens. Not only that, but we’ve had instances where parents have physically assaulted coaches because they disagreed with the plays they called. Allow the coach to be the coach. If you disagree, maybe you should go after the game and talk quietly to him rather than getting into a shouting match, which is disruptive for the entire team. Not to mention the fact that you are showing your teens your lack of self-control, disrespect for authority and lack of discipline. You can’t expect your teens to develop those qualities if you, as the parent are so lacking in them yourself.
4. Speak up when the lines are crossed
Having said all that, parents should realize that coaches are people and they do make mistakes. You are still the parent and you must pay attention to what is happening in your teen’s life. If you think the coach is being excessive in his training techniques, say so, and tell him why. For instance it is not okay for teens to train for long hours in the heat without taking breaks to rest and drink fluids. This is dangerous and should be addressed. Hopefully, you have a close enough relationship with your child that if the coach asks them to compromise themselves in any way, they will tell you. Coaches have looked the other way when kids use steroids etc. because they think it builds them up. If there is an inappropriate relationship between your teen and the coach, this should be addressed, and certainly if your child’s grades are failing because of excessive training you should speak up and remove your child from the team if necessary. Part of your child’s responsibility is to maintain his grades and I’m happy that a lot of sports teams have now adopted this policy.
I wish you and your teen the best as you start the new school year. Always remember that you and the coach are on the same team. You both want the best for your teens. Being in sports, teaches character traits like discipline, perseverance, work ethic, humility and goal setting which your teen will need to succeed in life in general. So enjoy watching your teen play, but allow the coach to do his work.