by Steve Calechman
Communicating with your child's youth sports coach about playing time, position or even coaching philosophy is tricky. Remember, the coach is responsible for the entire team and weighs many factors in decision-making. These tips from coaches and child development experts will help you communicate effectively:
• Before raising an issue, have some credibility. You need to watch both practices and games to witness attitude and performance and to know the context for a coach’s decisions, says youth sports coach Israela Brill-Cass of Mansfield.
• Get an objective second opinion. A co-worker with a child in another sport, a friend who’s coached or a youth sports administrator can offer an unemotional perspective.
• Think of the coach the way you would think of the manager of a different department at work, says Caryn Goulet, a youth sports coach in Wilmington. This acknowledges that the coach has unseen responsibilities to juggle.
• Don’t accuse – ask about your concern, such as, “My perception is that my child is playing less. Is there a reason and is there something she should be working on?” It’s non-blaming and it asks the coach to specify the problem, which assumes that if your child works on it and improves, more playing time can follow, Brill-Cass adds.
• Keeping quiet may be best. In many cases, your child doesn’t want the intervention.
• View coaches as you would bosses. Some are great. Some aren’t, but you don’t quit every time you’re unhappy. “You can’t fix the coach, but you can learn to live with different kinds of bosses,” says Jeff Bostic, M.D., a child psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital and a consultant to the Boston Red Sox.
• Help the frustrated child to refocus on what she can get out of the experience. It could mean working to improve a specific skill, or even just sitting on the bench and cheering others on – a good skill to develop.
• An upset child might want to speak up on his own behalf. Help him figure out his words and rehearse. Advise him to ask, "What should I work on?” to show that he understands this is a collaborative process. Let the coach know that the conversation with the child is coming. Giving a heads-up makes it easier on everyone, Bostic says.
Ultimately, remind yourself to be calm and positive about your child’s experience on the team. Trust in the season-long process of games and practices. Your child is building lifelong skills.