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Matching Philosophy with Parent's Expectations

In high school athletics, there seems to be a fine line between a coach’s philosophy and a parent’s expectations of his or her student-athlete’s coach. As parents and coaches may not always see eye to eye, coaches need to think out a plan that addresses any conflicts that may arise.

In an article for The Season, Stephen Kerr from GameChanger provides discussion points that all high school coaches should clearly communicate to the parents of their student-athletes. “Parents and coaches both play a vital role in a child’s athletic and personal development, on and off the field,” says Kerr. “Differing philosophies can often cause misunderstandings and even conflict between coaches and parents. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Kerr’s first point is that “more is not always better.” For example, coaches can tell parents that year-round training, game playing, and practicing isn’t the best way to help their child improve. “A player that hasn’t played enough may be behind on his skills, but a player who is injured is really in the same category,” Tim Saunders, Head Baseball Coach at Coffman (Oh.) High School, tells Kerr in the article.

Next, Kerr believes that “if a player has issues, a coach would rather talk to [the player], not the parent,” which he finds especially true at the high school or travel level. Instead of sulking or misinterpreting a coach’s decisions, players should take the initiative to explain the decision to their parent(s). “A good coach will listen, give sound reasons for his or her decision, and let players know what they need to do to earn more opportunities,” says Kerr. “Most coaches love that players want to play, and don’t mind if they’re upset at not being in the lineup, as long as it’s handled in a mature manner.”

Another key point coaches should make to parents is that “coaches want the best for all their players.” “Contrary to what some parents believe, a coach is not trying to mess with a kid’s head or make their lives miserable,” says Kerr. “They don’t coach simply to take out their frustrations on kids.”

One of the most important talking points should also be that “you can’t buy a college scholarship.” According to Kerr, college coaches know what they need and have their own idea of what they’re looking for. “Just because an athlete had a private coach or attended as many showcases as his parents could afford, doesn’t mean a college coach will be interested in him/her,” says Saunders. “It all comes back to athletic ability.”

In addition, coaches need to inform parents that they “play the players that give them the best chance to win.” According to Kerr, every program has the same issues with playing time and positions, and making a lineup is more than about statistics. Coaches must also remind that “all sports experiences will end sooner or later,” encouraging parents to let their kids have fun and enjoy the experience. “Once it becomes a job, it’s time to get out,” says Saunders. “That’s true even when you get paid for it as a big leader.”

Lastly, Kerr thinks all parents should know that “coaches are human and make mistakes, too.” “Coaching is often a thankless year-round job, with long days, little play, and time away from family,” says Kerr. “Coaches don’t expect parents or players to thank them… but they should respect a coach for that commitment, and give him [or her] the benefit of the doubt that he’s running the team to the best of his [or her] ability.”

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