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Complaining About A Coach To Age, Club, League or Athletic Director

I am often asked by parents if complaining about a coach to a higher authority such as a age, club, league or athletic director, is a good idea or the circumstances in which it is appropriate. 

Sometimes, unfortunately, you will have no choice but to complain, either because you have already spoken with the coach, and he or she hasn't changed the behavior you find objectionable, or because you feel the coach's conduct is so egregious that it needs to be brought to attention of a higher authority.

When you go over the coach's head, here's what I recommend that you do:

  • Form a parent group. Try to enlist the help of other parents. Being part of a group reduces the risk that you will be viewed as an overzealous parent and makes it more difficult for the higher authority (league director, athletic director, school principal etc.) to ignore your complaints. Forming a parent group also makes it more difficult for the coach to retaliate against your child by reducing her playing time or otherwise singling her out for adverse treatment.
  • Send a complaint letter. Draft a complaint letter signed by all the parents documenting the specific concerns about the coach you all share.
  • Pick a spokesperson. If the athletic or club director asks you to meet to discuss the matter, pick one person to speak for the group. You might have one of the fathers ask some of the tough questions. 
  • Invite the athletic or club director to a game to see for himself what has gotten you and the other parents (and players) so upset about the coach.
  • Obtain a commitment against retaliation. Finally, make sure to obtain a commitment from the AD to inform the coach that no retaliation against the players of those parents who complain will be tolerated.

Adapted from the book, Home Team Advantage: The Critical Role of Mothers in Youth Sports (HarperCollins 2006) by Brooke de Lench.

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