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5 things you should know about coaches before your kids play sports

By Janis Meredith, Family Coach, Raising Champion Families!

Your kids will never play for a perfect coach. After 21 years of sports parenting, I’ve learned how some coaches operate, wisdom I wish I’d had before my kids started playing. Here are some things I learned about coaches:

1. A coach who has his own child on the team struggles with objectivity.

Being a parent AND a coach is difficult. The coaching parent is could be too hard on his kid to prove his impartiality or he might play his child more than others who are better athletes.

It is possible for parents who have coached for years before becoming a parent/coach—because they have competition ingrained in them—but it is not easy. I saw my husband (a coach for many years before he became a parent) struggle with this issue. It boils down to one simple question: is the coach/parent willing to do what is best for the team, not what is best for his child?

2. Coaches may make pre-season promises they don’t keep.

Sometimes coaches will tickle an athlete’s ears with promises like, “I’m counting on you to be a real leader on the team” or “You are going to be a key person on our team this season.” A coach may paint a rosy picture to make a child think they will play a lot and play the position they want, simply because he needs players on the team. But once the season starts, the child realizes those words were insincere. If this happens to your young athlete, ask the coach to explain his pre-season remarks; if your athlete is in middle or high school, let him do it. Coaches should be held accountable for their flippant promises.

3. Coaches will not always make sense to you.

At times, you may question his knowledge of the game and you will disagree with his play-calling or player substitutions. But remember, what you see from the bleachers may not match what the coach sees from the sidelines. It may look like the coach is not making any sense at all, but you can be sure he has his reasons, valid or not. He spends hours with the kids in practice, and knows his players very well. Ask questions, if you must, in a non-judgmental manner, but realize that you will never totally know the mind of any coach.

4. Coaches do not treat all athletes the same.

It became very obvious to me at my daughter’s volleyball games one year that her coach was chewing on some players more than others, my daughter being one of them. It did not seem fair. Why is the coach chewing out my kid more than so-and-so, who does the same things? My husband, who has coached for 29 years, helped me understand that good coaches sense how much an athlete can be pushed. Maybe the coach senses your kid can take more pressure while other kids will crumble. Coaches often demand more of kids who they know can do better and leave others alone who they feel have already peaked. Helping your child understand this will make it bearable for him.

5. Coaches label kids.

Good athlete. Lazy kid. Bad passer. Weak hitter. Slow. Sometimes they even label an entire team. We just can’t hit the ball. We just can’t pass. We don’t have any defense. Coaches who label kids and teams negatively should stop focusing on what they can’t do and work on the weak areas to help them improve. If your child has a coach like this, encourage him to ignore the coach’s labels and work to improve his own skills.

Lest I also be accused of labeling all coaches, let me stress that not all coaches have these behaviors. Some may have none of them; others one or two or more. But as parents, we need to enter into the season of sports parenting with our eyes wide open to the drama, the challenges, the frustrations of the game, and be ready to make the best of our kids’ playing days.

Janis Meredith is a family coach who wants to help all parents raise champions. You can find out more at