Many coaches at the high school level understand how to motivate and push their players to improve without crossing the line into bullying or inappropriate behaviors. Others aren’t so balanced in their coaching approach. If your teen athlete feels her coach isn’t behaving properly, help her work through the problem.
Hear the Facts
It’s easy to feel that the coach is playing favorites or somehow being unfair, but at the high school level, athletics is often very competitive. Every player won’t get equal playing time like they did in pee wee sports.
Before you jump to any conclusions, ask your teen to tell you exactly what is going on without being emotional about it. Ask her to give you hard facts instead of just saying the coach doesn’t like her. Make your own observations at practices or games. When you know exactly what is going on, you’re better able to help your teen athlete proceed.
Check with the other team parents to see if their athletes have similar complaints. Be careful not to lead the parents to agree with you. Instead ask a few questions about how the season is going and what their kids think of the coach.
Support Your Athlete
Even if you feel she may be overreacting or letting her feelings get in the way, show emotional support for your teen. Let her know you see how the situation is affecting her. If you tell her she’s wrong or that the coach is always right, she may be hesitant to come to you with other problems.
If the situation isn’t an immediate threat to your child’s safety, sit down with her to brainstorm some ideas for handling the situation. She probably doesn’t want you running to the coach anyway, so avoid the urge to swoop in and save the day.
In some cases, your teen athlete might learn to live with the issue. For example, if the coach makes her run laps when she’s late to practice, the behavior isn’t really out of line. She just doesn’t like it. The solution would be to show up to practice on time so she doesn’t have those extra laps to run.
Other situations might warrant talking to the coach. For example, if the coach calls the players names or gets in their faces to scream at them when they do a play incorrectly, those behaviors are out of line. If the coach uses those tactics, you probably don’t want to send your teen in alone to talk to him about the issue.
You might suggest you go in with your teen to discuss the situation. Or perhaps your child would feel more comfortable discussing the situation with the school counselor who might be able to help. Whatever you decide to do, make sure your athlete is on board so you don’t cause a bigger conflict at home.
Talking to the Coach
Never address a major disagreement with the coach in front of the team unless you need to intervene when the coach is threatening a player. As a general rule, it’s best to discuss the issues privately with the coach. Request a time to talk with the coach away from the team.
Explain without being accusatory how your teen feels about the situation. Ask if he has a different perspective on the situation. It’s tough when it’s your child, but try to keep emotions out of the discussion and focus on the facts. It could be that the coach doesn’t realize that his players feel intimidated or upset when he gets too intense.
Monitor and Escalate
The situation isn’t over just because you talk to the coach. Continue monitoring the situation to see if the coach’s behavior improves. Also make sure he doesn’t single out your athlete in retaliation. If the situation doesn’t improve or gets worse, it’s time to go higher. If the team is associated with your child’s school, talk to the administration. If your teen plays in an independent league, go to the organizers of the league to address the situation.
Dealing with a difficult coach who uses unfair tactics is damaging to teen athletes. Give your teen the support she needs to deal with the situation.