Q&A: Talking to Coaches Who Want to Win…No Matter The Cost
Tracy asks: My kid is a good hockey player but not the best on the team. We are on a second year Peewee team and have been with the same coach for two years. Our coach is one who plays to win to the detriment of the players who are not on the A list. The coach will bench our son and the other kids who are not at the top of the list in order to “win, win, win.” He will even bench the kids when we are losing in hopes of turning the game around. My son is extremely smart and knows exactly what is going on. We want him to have respect for his coach and have never said anything negative about his coaching style but as a parent, it is very hard to defend something you adamantly disagree with. We have tried talking to his coach but that did not change things. He is focused on the scoreboard ~ not the kids. What do you suggest we do to handle this situation in an adult manner, while still getting the point across that at this point a child’s development the game should not be all about winning, but more about skill development?
Answer: Tracy thank you for your question. I run into this situation often and work tirelessly to address the problem in my talks with youth sporting associations across the country. Here is my best advice:
First, it is important to make sure you understand the policy of the program in which your son is playing. Sometimes you will find the playing time policy posted on the league’s website or in other official documentation. If you are certain that equal playing time is in fact a policy with the program your son is playing in, I suggest you move on to the advice in the next paragraph. However, if you cannot find written documentation that speaks to equal playing time, you will probably need to stick out the rest of your season and reevaluate the appropriate program for your child in the summer or fall.
Assuming equal playing time is a league policy, I would recommend the following. Since coaches are so busy, when you have an opportunity to meet with them face to face (before or after practice or at games), I believe sending a well-crafted, and non-argumentative email or letter to the coach. Voice your concerns over what you have witnessed and ask the coach if there is a good time to talk about the situation. One thing to make sure you ask (tactfully) in the email is how your player is going to develop the necessary skills if they are not given the opportunity to play during the games.
It is also important to give the coach the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes coaches are unaware of the lack of playing time given to one player. They have a whole team to substitute in and out of the game, while your focus is solely on your son. However if it has in fact been going on for the last two years, it is important to address the situation as stated above.
Additionally, you might have some contacts in the management of the league who can help you address your concerns and discuss them with the coach on your behalf.
Thank you for your question Julie and best of luck!
Editor’s Note: Thank you to Bob Bigelow for this helpful advice.
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