By Ken Kaiserman
Editor In-Chief
 
Coaching Disaster
 
I love it when I can turn my kids over to somebody who does a better job coaching than I do. It’s awesome because my kids like to listen more to somebody else than they do to me and that also allows me to just be a fan and enjoy being a dad. I also like being able to allow the kids to have expert teaching in sports they enjoy so they can continue developing their skills. So, while I usually do coach, there are times when I’ve been able to also experience being in the stands, having both positive experiences as well as coaching disasters.
 
Is This the Right Coach for Your Child?
 
The first thing to understand in trying to determine what you should do if your child is having a bad experience is to know what should be required of a good coach. There are friendly coaches and yellers; coaches come in all shapes, sizes and personalities, with good people skills and horrible habits dealing with kids. These traits, however, on their own, are not determinative. Regardless of some of these characteristics, at a minimum, there are three things that are a must for any good coach:
 
 
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Coach’s Corner, Continued
  1. The Coach cannot unreasonably favor his own son to the detriment of the team and certainly not in so obvious a way that it’s clear to everybody that he’s doing so. We’ve all been involved with teams where the coach always plays his son at shortstop and leadoff, even though that player really doesn’t belong in either spot. Often this is egregious and clearly to the detriment of the other players on the team. It’s even worse when that coach takes out his video camera from the 1st base coaching box for each at bat. While a volunteer does get some leeway and even some advantage in playing their kid as “payment” for their time, the favoritism cannot be extreme. While it’s great to be in a situation with a professional coach that doesn’t have a son on the team, in most recreational leagues this is not something that you’re likely to find. The problem is endemic to all sports and even makes it to the high school level where family members, boosters’ kids and friends are often given an unfair advantage.
     

  1. The Coach should be able to communicate to each player, and his/her parents, their role on the team and why. They should also give clear goals for improvement and direction to get more playing time or a better position. While there is always room for disagreement and varied opinions on both ability and the division of playing time, the coach should be able to voice his views in a way that is understandable to everybody involved. Solid communication will go a long way to help alleviate deficiencies in other areas where the Coach may not be as good.


  2. The Coach should understand the game very well, teach individual skills, and run an organized practice that allows every player to improve their skills. If the Coach is excellent at teaching the game and runs a very efficient, well organized practice, most parents are able to overlook even horrible problems with people skills, favoring the coaches’ son and poor communication.
No matter how you try to avoid the situation, there are going to be times when you’re in a coaching disaster: when the Coach does everything wrong and, to top it off, may even be mean to the kids. While it’s difficult to judge somebody who is volunteering their time while we’re sitting in the stands second guessing, there are extreme situations where action needs to be taken.

There are really only a few things that can be done and none of them are great. First, my first choice is that you can volunteer to help out, perhaps at a practice. Especially in circumstances when you have expertise your input should be welcome. While this isn’t always the case, offering to help is a good place to start.
Coach’s Corner, Continued
 
The next option is to communicate your concerns. The child can do this first and try to get an understanding of exactly why they fit into the role the coach has designated for them. While ideally it should be the responsibility of a good coach to communicate, if they aren’t able to, then it’s good to give the child the opportunity to interact with the coach in a mature, adult manner. Regardless of the results, this exercise will serve them well, giving them experience in dealing with people in positions of authority. If this doesn’t work, then it’s likely time for parents to get more involved and have a discussion. While you may still disagree, at least you’ve made your position heard.

 

If simple conversations and emails with the coach don’t give you any satisfaction, there is generally somebody who is in charge of this coach. In a situation of a recreational league, there is a division director, board member or league president that is likely interested to hear how things are going. In situations where the coaches’ behavior is truly out of line you should expect to see some results. If you get this far, having the support and agreement of other families on the team may also make a difference. Most leagues are interested in having their leagues and coaches do as well as possible. Most leagues do season end evaluations where you can further voice concerns about your coach.

The final option is one that is never good, but is available: don’t play. In a travel or club situation, there may be other teams that your child can play on that have a coaching philosophy more in line with what you’re looking for. This is something that you should always evaluate before signing up. However, in recreational leagues you don’t generally have a chance to evaluate the coach up front. The nice thing is that most recreational leagues only last a few months so, even in the worst case, it’s generally best to try and stick it out while supplementing learning with lessons and positive experiences with other coaches. However, even in a recreational league, if the experience is so bad that it may sour your child from wanting to participate in the future you have to take action even if that means not playing this year. Remember, if your job is awful you’d look for another one. Your child’s experience in sports, which they’re doing for fun, should not be torture.

There are extreme instances where youth coaches are so bad that parents are forced into action. Ideally, all coaches are fair, good communicators and knowledgeable in the sport. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. In circumstances when things are very bad, take action. First, try volunteering to help. If that doesn’t work, communicate your concerns to the right people, starting with the coach. Youth sports should be a great experience for all and your child doesn’t have the luxury during the few short years they get to play to get caught in a coaching disaster.




Care to comment on this month's article or poll questions or results?

Please visit The SportsKids Newsletter Forum and have your say!

SPORTSKIDS Trivia Test

We’ve got great Trivia games for beginning to master SportsKids – try our “Pro” Football Game and find the answers to these questions at the bottom.
 
1) Which coach is the NCAA career leader in wins?
A)   Eddie Robinson
B)   Bear Bryant
C)   Bobby Bowden
D)   Joe Paterno
 
2)The Davey O’Brien Award is given to the best NCAA skilled player at which position?
A)   Receiver
B)   Running Back
C)   Quarterback
D)   Linebacker
 
3) Which of these players is known as one of the first pro athletes to use a finger to signal #1 after winning a Super Bowl?
A)   Bart Starr
B)   Johnny Unitas
C)   Len Dawson
D)   Joe Namath
 
4) Many consider Joe Montana to be the greatest quarterback of all time. In 1979, what pick was he drafted with?
A)   1
B)   12
C)   59
D)   82
 
5) Who was the first African-American player selected to the college All-American team?
A)   Jim Thorpe
B)   Fritz Pollard
C)   Amos Stagg
D)   John Heisman
 
6) Nike has made shoes for lots of NFL players. Who was the first defensive player they made a shoe for?
A)   Howie Long
B)   Lawrence Taylor
C)   Reggie White
D)   Deion Sanders
 
There are trivia games in general sports, baseball, football, hockey, basketball and “Sports Math” in three different skill levels. Test your sports skills against kids around the world in the SportsKids Game Section.

 
Answers: (1) A (2) C (3) D (4) D (5) B (6) A
SPORTSKIDS Sports Poll
 
1) Have you ever had a child involved in what you’d call a “Coaching Disaster”?
- Yes
- No
 
2) Which do you feel is the worst offense for a coach?
- Favoring his child
- Not communicating with kids and parents
- Not knowing the game or how to run practices
 
3) What’s the best way to handle a coaching disaster?
- Complain to somebody about the coach
- Quit the team
- Complain to the coach
 
4) Have you ever complained and had favorable results
- Yes
- No
 
5) Which is worse?
- Yelling at the kids
- Not knowing anything about the sport
 
Previous Poll results:
 
1) Who is the greatest coach of all time?
- Rod Dadeaux (2.17%)
- John Wooden (26.09%)
- Phil Jackson (23.91%)
- Casey Stengel (13.04%)
- Red Auerbach (8.70%)
- Vince Lombardi (2.17%)
- Other (23.91%)
 
2) What criteria are most important for a college or professional coach?
- Championships (39.13%)
- Winning percentage (32.61%)
- Overperformance (6.52%)
- Career Wins (10.87%)
- Other (10.87%)
 
3) What are the most important criteria to determine the greatest youth coach?
- Winning (13.04%)
- Ability to teach fundamentals (26.09%)
- Kids having fun (28.26%)
- Developing high school players (26.09%)
- Other (6.52%)
 

Cast your vote on these and other sports polls at SportsKids.com