If the world were a perfect place, talking to a youth sports coach would be as natural and stress free as talking to your child's teacher. Parents would feel free to let the coach know anything we feel will affect our child's participation, such as stress in his home life or school, the fact that he has chronic asthma, that he is grieving over the death of a family pet or has to miss a game to attend a family wedding. We also should be able to expect that the coach will share any concerns with us about our child at any time.
For many parents, talking to their child's coach isn't a stressful situation at all; the coach is approachable and easy to talk to.
Unfortunately, as I know all too well from my conversations with parents and coaches over the years, that isn't always the case; for those parents, there is not much that worries and confuses them more.
It is simply astounding how many otherwise confident and competent parents - successful trial lawyers, emergency room physicians, business executives, and stay-at-home moms and dads - end up lying awake in the wee hours of the morning worrying about this issue.
Most coaches, especially those who coach younger kids, are not professional teachers, educated in child development; they are unpaid volunteers, who need to be cut a considerable amount of slack as a result. But, let's face it: there are some who are hard to approach.
If your child's coach is easy to talk to, great. But for those who aren't. here's some advice on how to take the stress out when you decide it's time for a heart-to-heart chat.
Before you talk
First, regardless of the issue you may have with your child's coach, talk to your child first to find out what he is feeling and thinking before you talk to the coach. His feelings may be very different than yours and they deserve your respect.
Second, encourage your child to talk to the coach himself. If you jump in every time your child has a problem, your child will soon get the message that she isn't capable of taking care of herself and will look to you to solve other problems she may be having in her life. For instance, if he is not getting as much playing time as he thinks he deserves, he should ask, "Coach, what do I need to work on so that I can earn more playing time?" This is particularly true as a kid gets older. A fifteen-year-old should be talking to the coach, not his parents. In fact, most coaches of athletes that age want the athlete to speak to them directly, not through their parents. (see user comment below).
Third, don't speak up until you see a pattern and after you have gathered all the facts with an open mind. Check with the assistant coaches and other parents. Be patient. Give the coach the chance to get to know your child before you begin complaining.
Fourth, even if your child's feelings mirror your own, don't conclude that you have to talk to the coach. Consider the effect your talking to the coach may have on your child's relationships with his teammates and the coach. Sometimes, it may be better to keep quiet until you have given the matter more thought and, perhaps, talked to other parents to see if they have concerns similar to yours. If so, you may be better off going to the coach as a group.