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Posted at 07:21 PM ET, 03/20/2012

Transition Game: Dealing with a “bad” coach


I recently received this email from a reader:

Your column on the do’s and don’ts of parent and coaches was timely and helpful but it assumes the coach is good and well-liked by the players and parents. What do you do when that is not the case?  ...  Forget about complaints over whether your child is getting enough playing time. What do you do when the coach is not someone you want your player exposed to?  
Obviously confronting the coach can put your athlete in a bad situation but allowing the coach to continue such behavior doesn't seem ideal either.  You want to teach your athlete how to get through tough times, but you also want the adults in their lives to be role models. When is it appropriate to intervene?  How should parents help their athletes get through a season with a bad coach? How do you keep your athlete enthusiastic about their sport when their coach makes it no fun?

There’s no exam to pass to become a coach; in fact, just about anybody with the time and willingness can take the role. Not every athlete is able to look at different high schools and choose a team that best suits him or her. Sometimes you flat out get coaches you don’t like and don’t respect, due to their behavior or lack of knowledge.

In these situations, I always wonder, what does the athlete have to say about his or her coach? I had a coach who was loud and rather obnoxious — anyone watching him from the stands wanted him to sit down — but as players, we loved him. We understood that that was who he was, and we had so much fun playing for him we got beyond it — it also helped that we knew he cared deeply about us. His antics fostered a better relationship among me and my teammates, because at times it was us against him.

If your athlete doesn’t share this sentiment, then maybe an intervention is in order. Coaches can be very influential people in an athlete’s life, but parents are the first line of defense. If parents and players collectively have an issue with the coach, then a meeting is a good first step — a meeting that focuses on the issues of respect and being a role model instead of the coach being an “x’s and o’s” idiot.

If the situation still doesn’t improve, then parents can certainly go above the coach. If a coach consistently displays behavior that is viewed as detrimental, it’s likely that someone in the school’s administration has taken notice. Sports are a major representation of a school.

I strongly discourage parents from berating coaches in front of their athletes; it sends a horrible message. Liked or not, the coach is in a position of authority.

First of all, kids repeat what they hear. “My mom said” or “My dad thinks” becomes warm-up chatter that plants the seeds of upheaval. Mom and dad may be absolutely right, but during practice and in games, the coach is calling the plays.

The lessons learned in sports are valuable even after the games are over. Replace Coach Idiot with Professor High-strung or Boss Because-I-said-so. That grade and that job are important, so finding a way to get along is key. Coach Idiot could provide a tough by valuable lesson in perseverance.

As far as keeping your athlete enthusiastic, I’d say find ways to absorb the game in other arenas. Attend college games, go watch friends play, maybe join a travel team if the schedule permits. Focus on fundamentals; watching your sport closely at high levels is also a great way to improve your skill level. Watch it, and then practice the good things you see. 

About Transition Game

Monica McNutt was an All-Met basketball player at Holy Cross Academy who went on to star for the Georgetown women’s team. She will be offering advice to high school athletes who are looking to make the leap to college sports

Got a question for Monica, or an idea she can use for a future post? Leave it here in the comments, or email her at hss@washpost.com. Follow her on Twitter at @__MCM__.

Previously:

Dealing with injury (March 13, 2012)

The dual-sport dilemma (Feb. 20, 2012)

Making the most of your college experience (Feb. 14, 2012)

Handling your parents and coaches (Feb. 7, 2012)

Dealing with that special breed of fans: Your parents (Jan. 24, 2012)

Advice for the young star athlete (Jan. 17, 2012)

Offseason is right time to get with the program (Jan. 3, 2012)

Managing to stay close to the game (Dec. 20, 2011)

Leadership, Tebow-style (Dec. 13, 2011)

The importance of attitude (Dec. 6, 2011)

Fine-tuning your “mistake response” (Nov. 22, 2011)

Looking beyond the stat sheet (Nov. 15, 2011)

Battling the “dumb jock” stereotype (Nov. 8, 2011)

Taking advantage of your athletic resume (Nov. 1, 2011)

College recruiting: Finding a program that fits you (Oct. 25, 2011)

Navigating the recruiting process: “Get a clue, control your career” (Oct. 18, 2011)

Secrets to success: Food and rest (Oct. 11, 2011)

Introducing “Transition Game” (Oct. 4, 2011)

By Monica McNutt  |  07:21 PM ET, 03/20/2012

 
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