So this letter was written for all those parents sitting in the stands helpless as they watch their kids sit on the bench game after game trying to put on a brave face, but crying when they get home and asking: "Why doesn't the coach like me?"
I would like to first point out that I am not a coach and have never coached, although I have had 4 children in a variety of sports including soccer, rugby, basketball, volleyball and tae-kwon-do for the last 16 years. So I have encountered and watched many, many coaches over that time, including a daughter who ended up coaching basketball. Many, many of these coaches have been amazing examples and mentors to my children. Unfortunately, there have also been the odd few that I have wondered why they’re doing it! I would like to point out a few things from a parent/child point of view as a reminder to coaches out there.
First of all, every child on every team is giving up time and money. They are giving up family time (which often includes dinner), TV time, friend time, work time (some of them hold part time jobs which they have to let go) and homework time to be on this team. Because of practices, games and tournaments, most of their free time and even their not so free time is being taken by this sport. The costs including athletic fees, tournament fees and uniforms add up, especially if that child is playing several sports which most do. They do this willingly because they love to play.
Second, they are giving up their self-esteem to you. Every time they play, any mistakes they make are under public scrutiny whether to parents, family or friends. When they don’t play, it’s even worse because it’s quite obvious that you have no confidence in them. If you yell at them, berate them and call them on the mistakes they make in public, it’s even more humiliating. Constructive criticism can be useful, but becomes unacceptable when the child’s confidence is completely crushed. Kids will play their hearts out when praised, when all they hear is negative criticism, its discouraging and disheartening and demoralizing.
Third, winning is important but in elementary and even high school most parents are going to agree that they also want their kids to have fun. We want to see good sportsmanship! When your team is winning by 90 points and you still have your top line out, you’ve just lost your crowd, not only the opposing team fans, but your own. Nobody likes to see another team being annihilated and slammed when it’s not necessary. I am embarrassed when a coach deliberately crushes another team. I am also not going to be happy when I hear you telling a player to “take him out” and my child ends up being injured because of it. Sportsmanship also means giving every player the opportunity to play even if it’s for a few minutes. They will never be a part of that team; they will never get better if they’re never given an opportunity to play.
Last, I would like to reiterate that thankfully most coaches are aware of this. I am grateful for some of the amazing coaches who have given up hours, days and sometimes years to coach sports teams, to teach kids athletic skills, to make them feel proud and happy to be part of a team. Every child on every sports team should be treated with decency and respect for their dedication and determination. It has been a privilege to watch my kids play sports over the past 16 years and I’m indebted to the coaches that have made this possible.