This is the latest of three Idaho Education News articles published by West Ada faculty and coaches that offer information on decades of working with student-athletes.
We’ve all seen the news: a father scolding a coach after a game. Parents who get into fights with judges. Parents who beat the coach. Parents who abandon the team by leaving the field, calling the coaches by all the last names in the book – if the same parents would never advocate for these coaches to act in this way towards their children or themselves.
One of the lenses that will help to see this problem is to understand the motivation of parents.
Every parent comes from a place of love for their child. I believe that no one wants to be “these parents”. However, our love and need to help a child sometimes makes us act the way we shouldn’t. We minimize and justify our decisions because we care about the interests of our children.
I call this “bear syndrome”. Everyone is a mother bear who protects her cubs. I see this in all social networks, many times in situations that do not justify the intense over-protection that this term indicates.
These bears not only protect their cubs from legitimate danger. They try to pave the way for the cubs so that they do not have any difficulties and problems. Some parents see their role as road graders, smoothing out every bump in the road so that nothing pushes the baby. Road graders and mother bears can easily become “these parents”.
Do we want to raise cubs or cubs as high school athletes? Do we allow our cubs to grow by protecting them from everything?
This is the exact reason that we have a portal to transfer to college and why we see players moving to high schools. People are looking for a path of least resistance for their children. We no longer want them to strive and overcome adversity in their lives – we want them to move on so they can be the starting pitcher on the softball team. Too many good players on the team? It’s simple: start another team. Start another club. Transfer to another high school.
Coaches also have families
When I was a teacher and coach in high school, my parents called me by all the names in the book, both in person and behind my back. I was the dumbest coach of all coaches. I was a bully and a jerk to get players. None of these things are true, otherwise my bosses would have fired me.
However, coaches do not have the ability to do so. It is expected that we will have oily skin and just take on everything that our parents throw at us, even if we train all our lives and many parents spend their whole lives watching sports on TV. “This Parent” often believes that he or she has a lot more knowledge about coaching than he or she actually does – and sometimes even more knowledge than a coach.
Parents demand that coaches respect their families. But parents forget that coaches also have families. My family always went to my football games. My family is sitting next to “this father”. My mother, my father, my wife, my children – they all sat in the stands and heard me call all the names, and my honesty and intelligence are questioned.
Every week. Every game. Every season.
One day, after losing in the playoffs at a field school, I was leaving the field after a winning game. I felt awful. To make sure I feel awful, many parents have told me how stupid we were, how the coaches lost the game and how we got angry at the state championship. “Nathan White, better change the defense! You’re terrible! ” this is about the most example PG I can cite on this forum.
I quickly found my wife on the way to the locker room. I told her, “Take the car and push it as close as possible. Bring the kids and wait for me. We are getting out of here as soon as possible. ” I waited in the locker room while our players and other coaches boarded the buses, and got out of the Dodge as soon as possible.
I didn’t worry about rival fans – I was worried about my family and our parents. I wasn’t bothered by the physical harm: it was rather an attempt to protect them from having to hear how horrible their husband and dad were. And my wife and children sat in the car and listened, reluctantly, to all the mean things that each parent had to say.
On the way home, my daughter innocently asked, “Dad, why do all your parents hate you so much?” I didn’t know exactly what to say. These were the parents of her friends. These were people she had known all her life. These were the people who invited her to swim to her house. These were the parents of the teams she was on.
“Honey, they don’t. They are just upset that we lost. And they need to blame someone and it’s always easiest to blame the coaches. All is well; I have big shoulders. They need a scapegoat, and that’s us. “
I don’t know if I believed her words. It is unfair that my family had to sit and listen. It is unfair that parents can rip off coaches without immunity. This is something that is wrong with our world of social media and keyboard guys: it’s easy to speak when it’s not face to face, and there are no consequences for words. Kids coaches don’t have to hear what their parents are stupid and honest, especially if it’s a lie.
Family members of coaches have ears to hear all the poison being thrown at us
My parents went to the coach’s office without warning, demanded that they be listened to, and swore at coaches who were stronger than the fiercest flames. Instead of working on planning practices, watching movies or something that will legally help the team win, coaches are scolded and besieged. They are scolded and interrogated.
And they’re expected to sit back and accept it and not react, because if we react, we could lose our jobs.
You see, this is our life. We do not train volunteer youth here. We all have to pay on mortgages, and that’s how we do it. Would you allow someone to show up for your work without warning and scold you for 15 minutes in the middle of your day? No, most people would have a security system in place to prevent this from happening. But here it happens before and after training, before and after games, at school in the front office, and sometimes in the grocery store.
Such cases are expelled from the profession of good coaches. Gone are the days when the same coaching staff taught and coached in a building for 5, 10, 20 years together. That was when I was in high school and when I started coaching.
Now the coaches are lucky to stay for a year or two. Great coaching staffs, like football, are there constantly trying to hire assistants to complete their program. 20-25 coaches work in big 5A football programs. The appeal is incredible, and “this father” is one of the reasons.
So how can parents not be “those parents?” While my kids were playing sports, I wanted to intervene with other coaches on behalf of my kids. In many cases, I really had a lot more knowledge about sports or how to teach and coach than a volunteer who coached my kids. I had to remind myself: it’s about growth and development. It’s about trials and failures. It’s about allowing athletes to play and support the team and the coach no matter what.
I think in order not to be “those parents”, parents need to focus on what is best for the program and the team. That’s what coaches do. And it is so indeed hard, especially if our child plays little, to do so.
However, look at everything objectively. Will it help your son or daughter to recover if they hear that you are mad at the coach and tell him or her that the coach doesn’t know what they are doing? Will it increase your athlete’s chances of playing more? Will it improve your teams ’chances of winning? Does it increase the chances that your athlete will work harder, or do you give the baby easy?
Usually, when the dining table destroys the coach and the program, the player finds himself in a difficult position. Am I on the side of my family or team? My dad or my coach? Introducing a 16-year-old into such a tug of war is unfair.
So … what’s the answer?
I don’t know, but I’m a teacher, so I believe that education – like this article I’m writing – is one step. I know the best parents of some of the best Varsity footballers I have met before this player’s banquet in his last year. And I don’t use “best” to describe a player athletically. I speak academically, emotionally, leadership, growth and being a young person.
This meant that in the four years of football while they played for us, the parents left the coaches alone and let them go. This meant that for four years the parents trusted us to help their child. Usually those parents come up, say they just wanted to introduce themselves to me after so much time, and thank you for the work I put in with their child.
It always makes me remember a different kind of “these parents” – those who support and believe in the lessons and work that high school coaches put into their athletes.
Common language not to be “this parent”
What should I do if I have problems with athletics in high school?
Step 1: Talk to your player. Is it a parent or player problem?
Many times a player who engages every day and sees the bigger picture feels the time and scheme of the game much better than his parents. Is it really a player who is upset or is it a parent?
Step 2: Schedule a meeting with the head coach. Don’t expect him or her after a workout or game; send a letter instead or call and request an appointment.
This offers several benefits. Sport is a matter of high intensity. Planning a meeting the next day or later this week may be dominated by colder heads, and the meeting may move forward logically and not be colored by the emotions of the moment.
Many times parents skip these first two steps and turn directly to the district athletic director with a problem. It is ineffective. By skipping the people involved, parents complicate the matter. By following the flow of communication, misunderstandings and problems can be corrected at the program level.
Step 3A: I believe that most problems can be solved in these first two steps. “Resolved” may not lead to more playing time or a shift from a common attack to a back attack, or the exact result a parent wants, but hopefully this will lead to an understanding of why a coach does what he or she does.
However, if the problem still arises, the next person to contact is the sports director of the building. If the problem is too big or severe for the coach to deal with, and the next level is needed, schedule a meeting with the building’s athletic director and / or director.
Many of the lenses that coaches, parents and players are dealing with are out of place. By working with coaches and then with the building administration, we may be able to solve more of our problems than allow them to pass them on to people in the district office who are really not directly involved and need to play catch-up to find out about the issues.
At first glance, Coach White’s series:
- No one wants to be “this” parent
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