What Coaches Really Wish Parents Knew

sports parents

Playing youth sports is almost a rite of passage. Nearly every family I know is running kids to practice or spending evenings at the field, gym, or pool, at least, one season a year. Behind all of that activity are coaches who love the kids but don’t love bad sports parents who give unasked for advice or worse.

How can we avoid becoming one of those bad sports parents? I decided to ask some seasoned coaches. They shared some great insight. Here are 6 things coaches really wish parents knew:

1. Coaches coach. Players play. Parents parent.

It’s easy to second-guess what plays the coach calls in a game or what decisions he makes for the team. It’s also tempting to shut the car door after a game and begin reviewing the child’s game errors. “That’s the coach’s job,” said Jim Stomps, who’s coached for 21 years at the high school and secondary level. “The coach will look at film and make corrections.”

2. Understand the coach looks through team glasses.

Parents may question why their child has moved to a new position or isn’t getting playing time. While the parent looks at her child, the coach looks at the team. Learning to put the team ahead of their personal interests teaches kids that life isn’t all about them. It’s one of sports’ great lessons along with this: Adversity shapes character, and it can help us teach our children these 3 life lessons for kids.

3. Push Pause on the hasty email.

Instead of firing off an email, a parent should pause when she’s upset. Waiting 24 hours to respond is a good rule of thumb. Then, she should send a quick text: “Hey coach, I’m concerned about something I heard. Can we talk after practice?” Because body language and tone never transmit online, a face-to-face conversation makes for better communication. Most coaches want parents on board and are more than willing to answer open and honest concerns.

4. Use sports as a heart check.

“Sports is a tool—and a fast-track tool at that—to be able to parent your child’s heart,” says Margaret Tucker, a veteran tennis coach. She said while many parents worry about their child’s physical progress and performance, they should use sports to see where to adjust their parenting. How does the child respond to authority? To losing, sitting the bench, being corrected, watching a teammate succeed? Parenting the child’s heart through all of the situations that sports presents will ultimately make the child a better athlete and person.

5. Understand the sacrifice for the coach’s family.

While coaches are committed to their teams and players, it can often mean giving up time with their own family. Holiday tournaments, unbendable schedules, and off-season practices often cut into time with extended family and friends. Spouses often step in to volunteer for the team. Understanding the sacrifice of the coach’s family can help parents better support the coach and team. (Thinking about coaching your child’s team? Consider these tips if you do.)

6. Listen and encourage.

And after the game? What’s the best thing a parent can do for their child after a game? Listen and encourage. “Win or lose, they need to listen,” says Shane Jones, who has 17 years in coaching multiple sports. Sports can stir up all kinds of emotions. If the child wants to be silent, don’t force conversation. If the child needs to talk after a hard game, set a timer for 5 minutes and then put it to rest. Most importantly, give honest encouragement. A hug along with “I love to watch you play” is what every child needs to hear after a game. {Tweet This}

What else can you learn from your child’s sports experience? Here are 5 mom lessons from a little league coach that apply to all sports. 

What things on this list do you want to start implementing in your parenting?