Parents and coaches both play a vital role in a child’s athletic and personal development, on and off the field.
But each has a different set of priorities. The coach is put in charge of a group of players, and has the challenging task of molding everyone into a team. They have to make tough decisions about playing time, who makes the team, and match players with the right positions. Parents naturally want to see their child excel. They also have a financial investment to consider, particularly at the travel ball or high school level.
Differing philosophies can often cause misunderstandings and even conflict between coaches and parents. But it doesn’t have to be that way. theSeason sat down with a couple of veteran coaches to get their take on how to find common ground and make the athletic experience manageable for everyone. Here are seven things these coaches would like parents to keep in mind.
More is not always better. Playing games and practicing year-round is not the best way to make your child better, says Tim Saunders, head baseball coach at Coffman High School in Dublin, Ohio.
“A player that hasn’t played enough may be behind on his skills, but a player who is injured is really in the same category,” explained Saunders, who was recently named executive director of the National High School Baseball Coaches Association. “They are both not able to get on the field.”
If a player has issues, a coach would rather talk to him, not the parent. This is especially true at the travel or high school level, according to Dan Keller, youth coach and CEO of Dugoutcaptain.com, an online baseball coaching resource.
“Coaches love communication, but they want to talk to your kid, not you, especially on topics like playing time or team role,” Keller said.
Instead of sulking or misinterpreting a coach’s decisions, Keller advises players to take the initiative and approach their coach. A good coach will listen, give sound reasons for his or her decision, and let players know what they need to do to earn more opportunities. Most coaches love that players want to play, and don’t mind if they’re upset at not being in the lineup, as long as it’s handled in a mature manner.
Coaches want the best for all their players. Contrary to what some parents believe, a coach is not trying to mess with a kid’s head or make their lives miserable, Keller explains. They don’t coach simply to take out their frustrations on kids.
You can’t buy a college scholarship. Saunders says college coaches know what they need, and have their own idea of what they are looking for.
“Just because an athlete had a private coach or attended as many showcases as his parents could afford, doesn’t mean a college coach will be interested in him/her,” he said. “It all comes back to athletic ability.”
Coaches play the players that give them the best chance to win. Every program has the same issues with playing time and positions, Keller says. Making a lineup is more than about batting average.
“While one athlete might be hitting .215, he may have a high on-base percentage, work deep into counts, force pitchers to throw lots of pitches, execute well (sacrifice bunts, moving runners over),” he explained. “Then, there are match-ups to consider (such as) righty vs. lefty, soft-thrower vs. high-velocity, etc. The decisions around playing time are many and varied.”
Coaches are human and make mistakes, too. Coaching is often a thankless year-round job, with long days, little pay, and time away from family. According to Keller, coaches don’t expect parents or players to thank them or kiss their rear end, but they should respect a coach for that commitment, and give him the benefit of the doubt that he’s running the team to the best of his ability.
All sports experiences will end sooner or later. Saunders advises parents to encourage their kids to have fun and enjoy the experience.
“Once it becomes a job, it’s time to get out,” he said. “That’s even true when you get paid for it as a big leaguer.”
From GameChanger and Stephen Kerr
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