Teamwork wins.

05.30.19
Dave Mason

I read a lot of youth sports articles. This one got my attention.

Why Sports Parents Shouldn’t Talk to Coaches.

You can read it for yourself, but basically the author argues that parents of youth athletes should not communicate in any way with their child’s coaches, other than to thank them.

Essentially the article implies that regardless of what they might be seeing or feeling, parents should place 100% faith and trust in the judgement, capabilities, and conduct of the various adults who have, through sports, become quite possibly the second most influential group of people in their kids lives. Yes, when kids fall in love with a sport, teachers probably fall to third place.

To support that premise, the author presents an example of what he feels would be the kind of behavior a coach should expect from parents.

Sports parents seem to think that because they can see what takes place on the field, it makes them amateur experts. A head football coach said, “I’ve eaten out at restaurants my entire life, and never have I once gone back to the kitchen to tell the cook, ‘This is how you should prepare the meal.'”

Uh, really? 

Should an 8-year old be left to advocate for themself in a player/coach situation? How about a 10-year old? A 12-year old? Is it unreasonable for any parent to feel it’s their responsibility to support their minor child in any scenario involving an adult who has influence and/or power over their life? Would it make sense that a parent might gradually begin to relinquish that role as their kid matures? Say at age 14 or 15, with the kid assuming more and more responsibility for self-advocacy as they move toward adulthood?

Because we’re not talking about a mature adult casually interacting with a single bad cheeseburger over the course of twenty minutes. We’re talking about young children or adolescents who might be locked into ongoing interactions with non-parent adults over extended periods of time.

If I don’t like my $12 burger, I don’t need to talk to the chef because I can simply choose to never go back to that restaurant. But if my 10 year old is a month or so into a $2,500, six month hockey season, they seem unhappy (or worse) about going to the rink, and I don’t think the situation is trending positive, it doesn’t seem unreasonable that as a responsible parent I might want to have a discussion with the adult who is largely responsible for my kid’s hockey experience, and who should be most in the know about it. No different from a standard parent-teacher interaction.

As anyone who’s been in a relationship — personal, educational, business, social — knows, the real danger in lack of communication is that it tends to exacerbate problems instead of, to use a football term, tackling them head on.

Jamie Young, football coach at St. Mary’s School, sees parents as part of his team. Video: Positive Coaching Alliance.

Communication wins.

Educators know that when parents receive a continuous stream of feedback from the adults who interact with their kids — and that teachers are open to feedback themselves — they tend to trust the people and the process. And when those parents see test scores and grades that clearly define their child’s capabilities relative to groups of similar kids, they tend to be more realistic about their expectations and more focused on working with educators to try to help their children improve.

Coaches who engage parents in ‘the process’ are building a bigger support team around the kids they’re working with. Because kids do best when they instinctively know that the adults they rely on to guide them through life are in alignment. A coach or teacher who is backed up by a parent is a more effective coach or teacher, and frequent communication goes a long way toward making that possible.

PowerPlayer provides an easy way for coaches to provide a flow of meaningful, trackable communication that helps parents understand how their child is doing via personal feedback that helps their young athlete improve. That’s definitely positive.

But the real benefit is that better communication — more shared information and insight — helps get coaches and parents on the same team. And that’s a win-win for everyone.