Why Coaches Hate Over-Involved Parents

hockey

(By Guest Contributor Amy Carney)

When did it become okay for Moms and Dads to rant and rave in the stands and feel entitled to text, email and call up their child’s coaches about anything that rubs them wrong?

My husband, Keith Carney, played 17 years in the National Hockey League and then spent three seasons as Player Development Coach of the Chicago Blackhawks before deciding to stay home and coach Bantam hockey in Arizona. I’m surprised that despite his proven success in the game, how often parents (even those who don’t know much about hockey) still question his coaching.

Keith made it to the NHL without his parents ever intervening. Keith’s Dad, Jack, says that he never once questioned a Coach (good or bad) during Keith’s ENTIRE youth hockey career. Jack also coached football himself and said that he used to have to ask kids to track down their parents, if he ever needed them, because they were nowhere to be found.

We definitely don’t have that problem anymore. These days too many parents make their presence known, in a negative way. It affects our children’s sports experience and their overall love and passion for the game. Three of my four children play high level multi-sports, so I get the intensity of it all, but there are certain things I don’t think any parent should ask their kid’s coaches.

If you ask me, I think we should start giving the game back to the kids. Here are six ways parents can let the athlete be the athlete and the Coach be the Coach.

 

6 Things Parents Should NOT Debate With Their Child’s Coach 

 

  1. Playing Time: The number one thing parents complain about is their child’s playing time. “Why isn’t my child playing more?” Families put in a lot of time and money and naturally have expectations based on this, but BACK OFF and trust the coach. Any playing time questions should ultimately be an athlete-coach conversation not a parent-coach discussion. If an athlete feels they are being slighted, it’s up to them to talk it over with a Coach. If your child isn’t comfortable doing so, then it must be more important to you than it is to your kid.
  1. Positioning: Coaches have a method to their madness. They put a lot of thought into their game plans. If they feel they need to switch up player positioning, then they will do it. No Coach needs a parent requesting changes be made to their lineup. Once again, if your athlete feels a change should be made, by all means they should request a meeting with their Coach.
  1. Winning: I think a lot of parents forget there’s an important thing called development in youth sports and losses are part of that development. No Coach sets out to purposely lose. They are likely just as competitive as you, if not more. The difference is a good coach understands that sometimes you may have a losing season in spite of gained improvement. It is a huge mistake to only see a winning season as a successful one.
  1. All-Star teams: Maybe your child will be chosen for the end-of-the-year all-star team or maybe they won’t. Please don’t plead your case to the Coach on why your child is deserving. The decision is not yours to make. And if your athlete isn’t chosen, don’t ask the Coach why not. Use not making that team as a motivating tool for the next season.
  1. Teammates: Don’t critique your kid’s teammates or question the coach about another’s playing time or overall game play. Your focus as a parent should only be on your child and that he is personally developing and enjoying the friends he is making through this sport. If your child is experiencing problems with another in the locker room or on the field, have him talk to the Coach about it.
  1. Team Strategy: If you don’t really know the ins and outs of the sport, perhaps you should refrain from questioning the Coach about his team strategy. Youth coaches certainly aren’t raking in the dough, so they aren’t coaching your kid for the money. Coaches are passionate about their sport and want to teach this next generation to play a game that they love.

amycarneyAmy Carney is a former sports journalist and editor. She writes on her blog www.amycarney.com as well as for various online and print outlets about intentional parenting and family travel. Amy and her veteran NHL husband, Keith Carney, are raising their teenage triplets sons and a tween daughter to be multi-sport athletes in today’s specialized world of youth sports.

76 Comments

  1. Parents should and do deserve a right to speak and be heard about their concerns. As a coach I refuse to talk to any parents before or after a game about anything more than hello, how are you etc. If they start talking about their kid or another kid about the game itself, anything other than it was a good game or effort, I will walk away. I always have a parent rep, that is the person the parents can talk to, and i will only talk to that person. Parents should have a 24/48 hour cool down period before they talk to the rep to calm their thoughts. This seems to work well for me since I implemented it. I also believe a parent should never coach their kid. Their kid will have way more fun playing under someone else than their dad or mom. This is fact!

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  2. If more coaches were fair then this would be true. I could careless if my son sat the bench or played outfield. But you have WAY MORE daddy ball coaches then you do really good coaches. The dad coach who their son will only play infield but he cannot catch a ball to save his life. So you think parents should just sit back and spend hundreds of dollars a year in rec sports and not speak up????? REALLY? I do not agree!

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    • That is a fact. As parents my wife and I spent thousands of dollars and thousands of hours teaching our kids to be top caliber players to have them cropped on by and endless string of mediocre coaches all the way to college ball. As a parent it is my duty and my right to intervene
      The question is, when did it become ok for these baboons to believe they cannot be challenged. I actually had a coach say to me, I have been playing all my life. I said yes, so have I. She was 19, I was 40

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    • You r exactly why there are more “DADDY COACHES”. Why would anybody want to coach that doesn’t have kids and put up with all the abuse. I know all about this. I have been coaching for 36 years with only 8 of those years with my son on my team. We have repercussions for over involved parents. Also I am sure you can do better so why are u not coaching. Youth sports love volunteers

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    • Fair? Really?…Fair? What the hell is fair in this world. Please show me “fair”. The only fair I’ve ever seen is the one where you can buy caramel apples….

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  3. I have been involved with sports for my entire life. My late dad played independent baseball in my young days, and then I played and now coach. The state of youth sports is terrible. http://www.limbaughgingrich2016.com/youth-baseball.html This generation of parents and kids can not handle failure. Sports is all about failure. If no one makes an out in a baseball game it is going to be a very long game. Parents, please understand a kid can learn just as much from a bad coach than a good coach. My experience is that bad coaches tend to not be coaches long. I have also witnessed kids giving up a sport they love because their parents are the ones kneeling next to the fence giving them instructions (not encouragement, instruction) while they are on deck and standing right behind the backstop while they are at bat giving advice and feedback pitch by pitch and yelling at them from the stands when they boot a ground ball. Let the kids PLAY. Please stop trying to drive them like you have a joystick. Please stop analyzing every thing they do. Please stop sucking the FUN out of a GAME. I raised 3 kids. My 2 sons played sports. I treated them the same way my dad did me. We drove to the park/stadium/field talking about the game. Not what we are going to do, but just where we are going and who we are playing. Once the car door opened, I am a fan, not a coach. Once their feet hit the ground the coach is in charge of them, not me. I then root for the team, not just my son. After the game is over, on the way home, we talk about the game. We don’t analyze his at bats or plays in the field or his batting average. We just enjoy the drive home talking about all the fun things that happened, whether they were hits or errors, strikeouts or homeruns 🙂

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  4. What about when you have the opposite playing time problem and the coach is over playing your child to the point of overuse injury? When the player says she’s hurting and coach says suck it up and do what I say after an orthopoedic surgeon diagnosed labrum tear due to over use–from playing for same coach. I always said I wouldn’t be that parent, but I can’t let him injure her and potentially end her career. Any advice here?

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    • That’s different. You are still the parent and you are ultimately responsible for their well being. It’s actually an easy out…have the Dr bench the kid for 2 weeks or whatever time he should “rest”.

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  5. That article has good points but, you should have a list of advise for coaches who play favorites instead of the better performer.

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    • I agree. My daughter was on a dance team at high school. The coach played favorites to the point of being hateful to others. She also would pit one against the other. Let some be late with no consequences and bench others. Encourage girls to stand up for them selves when being bullied yet would a fight would erupt she would walk away. Played head games. In my opinion parents get over involved when a coach is unstable or erratic

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    • If you are referring to youth ‘daddy-ball’, youth sports is being destroyed by ‘travel ball’ that is really just dads mad because their son wasn’t playing shortstop or quarterback or starting point guard so they form their own team. If you are talking high school sports, I guarantee you vast majority of high school coaches don’t coach to lose. I chuckle when I hear a mom say ‘my son should be the starting third baseman but the coach is playing his favorite’ when that coach’s favorite is all-state who will go on the be an all-conference player in college. I see it and hear it every year.

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  6. Good article. Really depends on the quality of the coaching. I am a coach for u-12 girls and u-13 boys soccer team that each play at a fairly competive level. That being said, I make sure that subject to attending practices and putting in the work, all players play at least 1/2 the game and all players are put in a position to succeed. I also coach high school soccer and played at a high Division 1 level . At the end of the day our jobs as youth coaches are to develop kids. As the new US Soccer Player Development initiative stated soccer culture at the youth level focuses too often on team results and winning than development of individual players. I actually had a parent pull his daughter off my u-10 team because he thought I focused too much on player development! This coach also coaches in out club and as you can imagine, has a win first mentality that is completely inappropriate at the youth level.

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  7. This article is great and especially relevant for today’s youth sport world. As someone who has experienced all sides, a player, a parent coached player, a coach, a parent and a coaching parent, in multiple sports, but not hockey. I can honestly say, after being around competitive sports for 35 + years, in one way or another, it does definitely seem many parents are way out of control when it comes to criticizing coaches, playing time and methodology. I would also like to point out to those that don’t like the “volunteer argument” that in my mind there is a difference in those that volunteer, for no pay, in small rec or school leagues, like your local little league or grammar school, compared to pricey club teams, where expectations are higher for all involved. Yes, there are those that shouldn’t be coaches, just like there are those that shouldn’t be playing at all, but are forced to by parents for a myriad of reasons. The other thing I see quite often is parents using the excuse of “children’s playing time to get more experience” but if those children are not coming to practice, are not putting in effort, are being lazy etc then why should they be getting equal playing time? Simply because you paid? So has everyone else’s kid. It sometimes come down to safety issues as well. When you’re talking fast paced, rough sports like hockey and football, if your child is not prepared that leaves them vulnerable to injury. Coaches have to be mindful of so many aspects of the game, players, team, etc. that it is just not that simple. The overall theme and advice given in this article is very good and well intended. Parents, coaches and players should all be more informed and learn to be better communicators.

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  8. Bull! I disagree
    I have watched a lot more really bad coaches with absolutely no idea what they are doing than great coaches with my kid’s development at heart.
    Even the ones that do know the game, need to learn to explain to the kids and explain to the parents what is going on. Plus, knowing the game and being able to coach are two different things.

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      • I’ve seen this response a couple of times. That is not the point. The point is, there are some people who should coach, and some people who shouldn’t. Too often, those who shouldn’t refuse to deviate from their comfort zone – which is many times detrimental not only to the team as a whole, but also to the individual players they are suppose to be developing. I watched a coach crush the love the the game out of an entire team b/c he refused to teach the basics of strategy or teamwork, b/c the club, at that level, was ONLY about individual development. It was ugly and unnecessary. It is one thing to allow your child to ‘learn a lesson’ because there will always be bad coaches, and losing is a part of life, but it’s another thing to stand by quietly as a coach destroys a player’s confidence.

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      • I agree…coach or shut up…sick of this. I volunteer about 1,000 hours a year coaching, reffing, organizing so parents can critique me..please, like I care. You should all be thanking me, repeatedly, for the hours of free day care I give your kids, most of whom this will be their glory days because they will never work hard enough to play in high school. Why? Because parents don’t teach their kids that hard work pays off.

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  9. From my kids’ experience of coaches they have felt some coaches great, some not so for a variety of reasons. But I stand by this article because as I tell my kids – In life you will encounter obstacles all the way through – some you can work with and some that you need to work through with resilience. Not all coaches will be a “fit” for you not all with seem fair,, not all seasons perfect. But consistently get on the ice, work with what you can and learn – from what you struggle against and from what feels easy. As a hockey parent I have to do the same because I am very often highly irritated by overbearing parents who think and voice that their child is “special” and the their “treatment” by the coach unfair. If only the parents had their own life and sport and didn’t make their experience and perception of their child’s hockey such a focus and a drama. I think their child probably secretly feels the same.

    What are parents expecting from the fees they pay? Are they owed things to always go their way. And if it does for their child does another child not get their desired position/ice time whatever? I don’t think money should come into the equation.

    Sure, bullying and abuse is another matter – just recognise the difference between that and an objective call that may not be in your favour as you see it. And help your kids do the same – their tenacity to cope with life and its inevitable rollercoaster will be the testimony.

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  10. It is absolutely nuts to see how crazy some parents get! Chances are, your kid is NOT going to make it to the pros, the Olympics, or even college. And if they don’t, it will NOT be their seventh grade coach’s fault! We need to show these coaches more appreciation and support.

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  11. It’s very difficult for parents to know what coaches are dealing with until they’ve been on the bench in a competitive minor hockey game. Ice time, positions and line combinations are all very tough things for a coach to decide what will work best for the group. Rolling the lines to give equal time to each player is easy to do but the fact is that at a competitive rep level there is a big difference in capability of the players in different situations. When you put weaker kids on the ice in a close game in a tough situation, when the other team has their best players on the ice it sets a kid up for failure and ridicule. When a weaker player makes a mistake or just can’t keep up, they get exposed and the puck usually ends up in the back of the net. This could cost the team a game, and that player comes back to the bench crushed for letting the team down and loses confidence. If this continually happens the player will eventually not want to be on the ice. I’ve coached kids that don’t want to go out in certain situations and the parents in the stands are unaware of this. Kids aren’t stupid, and a coach that puts that kid out in that situation, alienates him and can crush his confidence. A player should be set up for success not failure. The best equipped kids should be put in the tough situation in an important game and the weaker players should be taught in practice to get them to a point that they are comfortable and confident to be on the ice at the end of the game in that pressure situation. Another factor is that effort should be rewarded, buying into a team concept should be rewarded, rolling the lines all game – every game creates complacency and a sense of entitlement. Any experienced hockey person knows that kids need some challenges and setbacks to pull the desire out of them. Parents that think an extra 5 minutes of ice time here or there in a hockey game is going to make a difference in a players development is mistaken. Kids develop in practice and a coaches goal should be to develop the weaker kids there to get them ready for pressure situations in a game so that as the season goes on they can play a bigger roll on the team. Having fun, meeting new friends, improving as a group, learning social skills, developing leadership, being a part of a team, finding a role, learning to dig deep for something you want and enjoying the learning of this great game with your friends is what youth hockey should be about. Ice time and other complaints usually come from the parents who have never been behind a bench to see the dynamics of a competitive hockey game up close… power plays, penalty kills, injured or upset players. Parents should support their children and help them understand situations that come up. Helping them challenge themselves to stay positive work through things is way more helpful then giving them excuses. Most coaches live and breathe the game side by side with the kids every day and truly care about every player. The dedicated hours spent designing practices, preparing team meetings and thinking about how to motivate different players, help build character and develop skills seems to be forgotten about quickly when a parent sees their child get short shifted or moved to another line or position. Some parents (not all) make it very difficult for a (volunteer) coach to want to stay in the game.
    It’s a good thing the kids are great!
    C

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  12. I read the article as a whole as parents step back and enjoy watching your child play. The comments of negative personal experiences need to be dealt with…Bullying? Disrespecting a player? These are not the norm and not referenced in the article, you need to document and take it the your leagues board, that is unacceptable. Many of you are reading too much emotion into the article, take the emotion out and re-read…it simply states let the coaches coach! Don’t be a helicopter parent. And no one expects a 7-8 yr old have a conversation with a coach without the parent present. I learned something from my daughters soccer coach a few years back, and I used it at my parent/coach meeting at the beginning of the year…”the only opinions that matter this season will come from the people that are on the ice. If you want a say in how the program is run, lace up your skates and join us on the ice. Otherwise sit back and enjoy.The exception to this rule is if there is a safety concern, than that is everyone’s responsibility to speak up”. I don’t run a dictatorship hockey program, I respect the opinion of the other 8 coaches we have. What we don’t have time for is the parents that feel their child is entitled to everything let alone anything. If you want to coddle your 8 yr old at home that’s fine, but they wont get that from coaches on the ice. We run a fair and honest program, unfortunately not all do.

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    • Excellent Coach Bryan, I agree with you 100%! I have been on all sides, as a parent, as a coach and as a coaching parent. Some of the comments on here are a perfect example of what the overall article is trying to convey.

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  13. one of my favourites as a coach was the phone call from a father I got the day after a game .They were 10 year olds, it was hockey , we were winning 4-1, the game was in the last few minutes and we got a penalty shot, remember the shot must be taken by a player on the ice at the time of the infraction, it was close to the end of the season and I told a boy who had yet to score a goal to take it, he did the goalie made the save, the game ended…no problem right? next day I get the erked father of one of the players who was also on the ice-“Greg why didnt you let my son take the PS didnt you know he already had 2 goals?? He could of had a Hat Trick? My reply was pretty short …I don’t count who has scored the goals while I’m Coaching!
    The fact that we are talking about this is great, keep the message coming.

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  14. Great read, this could apply to any sport. Would love to see an article on when it’s OK to question a coach as a parent. I have seen the arrogant young ” don’t ever question a coach” guys/girls do a 360 once they have kids of their own.

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  15. I generally agree with the points made in the article and I try very hard not to be one of “those parents” with varying degrees of success. But I feel like I’ve had my wrist slapped and I would like to respond from a parent’s perspective. With respect to playing time, for the most part, I agree that it should be a conversation between the player and the coach. However, asking a youth player to approach a coach about not playing (aka his/her poor performance) is like an adult approaching a boss about their poor performance. A difficult conversation to initiate for an adult, much less a child or a teenager. And if the player does initiate that conversation, the coach should be prepared to provide a meaningful and constructive response, which I know from my hockey player’s experience doesn’t always happen. The player should always know why they aren’t playing and what steps they need to take to get more playing time – is it effort? attendance? a specific skill to be improved?. Ms. Carney also writes that “a lot of parents forget there’s an important thing called development in youth sports and losses are part of that development” and that the “difference is a good coach understands that sometimes you may have a losing season in spite of gained improvement.” For me, these comments seem incongruent with the “don’t debate playing time” comments. Clearly, if the player isn’t playing, they are not developing and there is a break-down somewhere between the coach and the player. There are also lots of coaches who will play their strongest players to get the win. Please don’t complain about the parents only wanting a win, when the coaches show their focus on winning and not on developing by shorting the bench in order to try to get a win and thereby depriving kids who have put in the same (and sometimes a better) effort from playing. For travel hockey (or any travel sport), I can appreciate that players should have to earn their time and playing time may not be equal. However, if the player was good enough to make the team, then they should be good enough to play and should have earned the respect to receive constructive feedback on how to improve on that playing time if it is disparate. Finally, I take issue with the idea that I cannot question the coach on the team strategy because I don’t know the ins-and-outs of the game. In this particular instance, timing and type of questioning (ie., inquisitive vs accusatory ) are everything! I didn’t grow up with hockey, but am a sports fan and want to understand the game my boys play. How can I learn to understand the ins -and-outs of the game if I don’t ask questions about why certain things were done? I think both parents and coaches need to remember that we’re on the same side; We both want to see the players succeed and have fun doing it.

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    • I’m agree 100% with you, Kathy. Playing time does matter, kids wants to play even if they loses. Not playing is one of the reasons kids quit their sport. No coach wants to be the reason a kid quits!

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    • There is a difference between asking question about game strategy out of curiosity and questioning the coaches strategy decisions. As a coach, I have no problems with parents that want to understand the rational behind how I am training their child. It’s when parents think that they know more than the professionals they have hired to teach their kids that the problem arises. If parents are constantly questioning the coach’s decisions, then clearly they think the coach is not qualified to teach their child and they should find another one.

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    • This is a great take on the article! I whole-heartedly agree with your points. I want my son to be on development teams while he is young, which means he should be able to play, or know why he isn’t being played. We are dealing with a strange situation currently wherein, the coaches’ 4 kids never leave the field which means the rest of the team has to share the remaining playing time even if the team is losing or winning by a significant margin. It is very frustrating. My husband played sports all his life and was a coach at one time. We really don’t want to be “those” parents but feel like we have to. We are worried what the outcome of the conversation will be…

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  16. I have looked this over and no I didn’t play in the NHL and I to have coached for 12 yrs. as for playing time kids don’t learn sitting on the bench. It’s not good for development, confidence and self esteem to sit on the BENCH. It’s all about development in minor hockey up to midget. Junior hockey and above different yes.

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  17. Coaches need to take time to communicate with parents. They Should not be trying to operate a dictatorship. The parents are paying to play, some times a few thousand dollars, and as a result feel they have the right to provide input or question the coaches unless the club instructs them not to.

    It isn’t normal to pay thousands of dollars and be told to go sit in the corner and shut up.
    Why wouldn’t coaches expect to have to explain and communicate? Are they that special?

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  18. I do agree with the article… But some coaches just shouldn’t be coaching… My son in his first year of junior hockey, there team would be losing 8-0. Yet the rookies did not get played one shift…. The eight veterans that were losing 8-0 were out every 2nd shift…. So much for player development… Nothing was said to the coach!! But really?

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  19. I can say that most parents wont even bother the coaching staff if they are being fair and worried more about the development of the kids that the wins at the end. I have just been that parent who decided along with a bunch of other parents to have a coach removed because of the bullying, favoritism and being the typical garbage coach who is not interested in anything but their kid. While the rest of us fork out huge time and money to sit in the stands and watch our kid watch the game from the bench. You think a child is going to speak up about that at 8 years old? Give your heads a shake. We are there until they can do it for themselves. When you arent put in any kind of positive situation where you never have certain kids put in positions to succeed, you are doing a huge disservice to the kids.

    I could go on…

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    • Maybe you should try talking with your player. I don’t mean right after a game. I mean when you are talk WITH your son or daughter. Ask them why they think the coach did or didn’t do something. Ask them what would have been better. Then ask them want they think THEY can do to make it better. Omg!!! A parent trying to help a kid think, sort out and solve a situation!! Heaven have mercy!!

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      • Did you even read the comment? The ENTIRE team tried to have him removed…This isn’t just my son we are talking about here. You keep talking your kids to death with post game what if, what if, all the while the predatory/primadonna coaches keep ruining sports for kids all over the place…The one lesson we all did learn, how to spot a bad coach easily. This was a club team scenario so it was an expensive lesson.

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  20. I have 2 boys, midget and Bantam club hockey. I have to say I disagree with your article. Just because some of these coaches played high level themselves does not make them mentors to our children. Why do we hockey parents continue to allow our children to be belittled, bullied and sworn at by our coaches. Non of us would ever accept this from our children’s teachers so why is it acceptable in hockey and other sports. I’m tired of coaches and clubs blaming parents when we have an issue with coaches. Not saying they are all like this but in 11 years of hockey, my older son cannot tell you 1 coach who made a difference. Without parents paying ridiculous club fees, team fees and traveling fees, these Clubs would be non existent. If one more coach calls my kid a “f’ing p…y” or another derogatory remark, I’m going to loose it. Stand up for yourself and most importantly your children. We are all trying to do our best to instill good values, respect and morales into our children and shame on many (but not all) coaches for degrading these children.

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    • MB- bullying, belittling and coaches who swear are not the ones we are discussing in this article. By all means parents should get involved when those behaviors are present—on our list for a future post—When parents SHOULD question the coach. Thanks for weighing in.

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      • If only it was that easy. You clearly don’t have children in Club Hockey as they literally “own” your kids. Yes, that comes from the Club itself. Trust me, we have even gone so far as to have them released from these Club teams by going to Hockey Canada and even they say there is nothing they can do. My boys absolutely love hockey, so for them to just walk away is like cutting off on arm. There needs to be better regulations and policies in place to protect these kids. After all it is “Minor Hockey”.

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    • It’s tough because its mostly a volunteer thing. I have 6 years experience but have only gas money as far as monetary compensation. Even though the sport is expensive the youth coaches don’t get much or any $ (at least in US) so you have to expect some of the coaches are just going to be adult bodies who aren’t necessarily great with the game and/or teaching children.

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  21. Sometimes I think we defer too strongly to a coach’s opinion. I see a lot of articles like this that heap all the blame on the parents for a dysfunctional relationship, when there’s plenty of dysfunction happening on the coach’s side too.

    My son had a soccer coach who would put my son in defense, and then he would teach everyone else on the team offensive drills, and then have the team practice them on the field against my son. He basically made him a tackling dummy for a whole practice. He never switched up the positioning, and he never taught my son those skills. This same coach also scheduled a make for Easter weekend after we’d told him we’d be out of town that weekend visiting family. We drove back Easter Saturday in order to play and be a part of the team anyway, and my son played all of five minutes that game, after we’d missed out on family events and drove 2.5 hours each way to play. This was the same coach that begged to have my son on the team, and courted him for a year. My son was so hurt and disgusted by what happened that he’s given up soccer altogether.

    My daughter had a really bad experience with a soccer coach, but that’s a story for another time.

    Sometimes, the method really isn’t in the coach’s madness. The coach is just mad.

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  22. Generally, I agree with what you’re saying here but have to inject. I myself have 4 children playing high level hockey and have had every type of coach you can expect to see. I would say hands down the best coaches we’ve been fortunate enough to cross paths with were the ones that understood that these were children they were dealing with and that they had to reach each of them as individuals to get through to them.

    Too many times, you get a coach who comes from a high level, college, juniors, etc. and forgets what it was like to be a 10,11,12 yr old child playing hockey. For them the magic is gone and it’s a shame. When you have a coach that understands the children and how their minds are working, it is a magical experience because the kids ENJOY the experience and that’s what it’s all really about.

    Even at the highest levels of youth hockey, the win first mentality is overrated. At 10,11 and 12 years old, the ONLY thing that matters is that EVERY member of the team is improving. If there are players not getting opportunities, they shouldn’t be on the team, the coach is wasting their own time, the child’s time and the parents money and time. I’ve seen too many times, coaches that give preferential treatment to some children over others and have been on both sides of that one. I would gladly trade the wins to see everyone get their chance to score the game winner or get the OT shootout chance, or the big PP goal.

    When something is egregiously wrong, i.e. the coach is sitting players, favoring others, empowering players to be bullies, etc., parents have a responsibility to speak up. You’re only a child once and the parents that speak up are the ones, I believe that understand this and only want their children to enjoy the experience. Obviously, there are some bad apples that will complain anytime they see an opportunity but I believe coaches need to have an open door policy with parents and really listen to what the parents are saying, keeping in mind that parents are generally acting with good intentions.

    At the end of the day, parents need to understand that the odds of their children playing in the NHL are about the same as hitting the lottery, so put all that aside and go with the attitude of doing your best at making his or her experience an educational and enjoyable one. This means being honest with yourself and letting him or her play on the A team if that’s where they fit. Don’t force your child to play above his or her head. Youth hockey organizations will gladly take your money, it’s your job to make sure your child is in a position where they will be challenged yet not in over their head.

    Reply
    • I love your advice! Especially the part about the need for us parents to be honest with ourselves and not forcing our children to play above their heads. (I’m totally guilty –)

      Reply
  23. I love this article as well. My husband has been a volunteer hockey coach for years, and he’s the fairest coach I know. The boys are 11 & 12 years old. To answer the question “Why do some others get more play time?’… It’s because some kids show up not wanting to put in any effort. The coach knows what your child is capable of & if they’re not trying, then they’re not going to be put out for the power plays and the few final minutes of a close game. If my son is having an “off” night, then I want him taken off too. After a shift, if your child is not sweating and winded, and all the rest are… that says something to the coach. Should a child who misses practices and doesn’t give 100% to the team get equal play time just because their parents paid the money?

    Reply
  24. If your child is blessed with good coaches, coaching would not be criticized and your article would accurate. I’ve coached and ref’d for several years and have never been criticized, except one time. We were in the championship game and one player was shorted play time. A complete oversight, since we had played all players equally all year long.

    Having a son that played two years of juniors in Canada and now plays college hockey, I can tell you the in several instances the coaches had no idea what they were doing. There’s never been articles published about the pathetic coaching that takes place at all levels of hockey. It’s alway the parents at fault. Anyone involved with hockey understands the investment made for your kid to develop and play. The investment is financially, time commitment, and sacrificial. In any case it’s a great deal of frustration when you see kids get screwed over by stupid decisions coaches make. The only response anyone ever gets is “If you don’t like it, move your kid.” Not realistic. The coaching clinics held by some organizations do not address what good coaching is at each level. Just because you played hockey, doesn’t mean you can be a good coach.

    With all respect.

    Reply
    • Al,
      You make a very valid point. I think there are plenty of coaches who don’t do a good job. My kids have been coached by some of them. There are many circumstances where coaches should be questioned and maybe that should be a future post for us. I think Amy’s overall point in this post tho is that parents Helicopter way too much around their kid’s sports. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts.

      Reply
  25. Love this. My only question is what age group. My son is 10. And in a couple of his playing years he was not getting the same ice time. They are young and need to learn. We also pay for him to play. Why should he not play as much

    Love this. Agree on all points. But only with older kids. My son is 10 and in the past the coach has not played them all due to wanting to win. They all have to learn so should have the same ice time.
    That being said. The coach he has this year is amazing. They all play. They win and lose together (mostly lose). But he tells them how they are improving.

    Reply
    • Karen, it is a great question. One I have wondered about also with my own children. Based on the strong response of this post I think we need to do some future posts on when it’s okay to question a coach and how to question them and address some questions like yours. Thanks for your time!

      Reply
      • Yes, Alex, I would love to see a future post that addresses how/when to say anything, if there is any time that may be appropriate. Thank you for considering that! I noticed no one said anything in reply to my post below, but I would definitely be interested if you do write something up with suggestions.

        Reply
  26. I am a coach in minor hockey in lower mainland vancouver bc. I have coached both of my sons and if anything i was harder on them then the rest. But i also say to them and to all enjy the moments as they are short and go by so fast. Now that my boys are done i still coach and i dont get paid. I love the game of hockey and i try to be fair to all players so they can develop but why would you put a player out on the ice that would not help him be successful. And i hope you know what i mean. You want all players to enjoy the game and have a good experience winning ad losing does that. I have had parents yell and me yell at thier kids and yell at the refs. These parents are all the same living there dreams through their kids rather then letting the kids live their dreams. As i always say enjoy the moment and i do evrryday. Thaks for the support of many people to allow me the chance to share my joy in a game i loe to play and coach. Lmha midget a2 coach.

    Reply
  27. I have been fortunate to coach youth sports with and without my own children being involved. Hockey of course has been the most difficult… I completely understand the competitive nature hockey brings out in all of us and the extrodinary costs involved at times but as I read the comments above they point to the very issues at the heart of the problem here. This is not just about how you feel about the situation but how your child feels. You might think the coach is doing a poor job and your kids are stuck playing 1 position for life, but have you considered they only want to play that spot despite what you want? I have had that happen more times than I can count, offering them to try different positions only to have them plead not to. Sure every team that has their coaches child on it suffers more scrutiny than others (one reason I certainly hesitated coaching my daughter – but in saying that I recognize she is not a top player so as her coach I try not to put her in a position where is is always set up to fail, certainly she is put in uncomfortable key moments so she can gain more confidence and learn from them but even the best players make mistakes so it’s ok for everyone to do that and yes, the coach is included. It’s more than winning games and putting up points game after game it’s bigger than a trophy at the end of the season… It should be about teaching values, confidence, humility and a sense of team and being a part of it all. If you can’t see that as a parent, you’re not looking at the big picture. Having a child that has a strong work ethic and works with everyone on their team may not necessarily have a successful hockey career ibut I gurantee they will have a successful life.

    Reply
    • Great reminders Chris. There certainly is value in children learning everyone in life doesn’t get equal playing time. I often remind myself of something my kid’s principle said to me years ago, “Fair doesn’t mean equal. Fair means everyone is getting their own needs met.” The very best coaches I have been around in the NFL, NBA, etc realize how to get the best out of each player, how to get each individual to reach their potential which is different for every person. Thanks for taking the time to share.

      Reply
  28. Have you ever had your kid ask you why the coaches kids are on the power play and penalty kill . Boys can often be intimated by coaohes and sometime just quite at season end do to politics of sport Approaching a authority figure like a coach can be upsetting to some kids . A good coach should have correspondence with players and parents . Instead some act like premadonas only interest in there own kids . a good coach should be concerned about your childs well being and self confidence . If you believe that if your child does not want to talk to coach but the parentsdo , it must be more important to the parents is way off and shows a liitle disrespect to parents who are concerned about all kids self esteem

    Reply
  29. I appreciate how you mention several times to have the child speak up if there’s something they don’t like. A parent’s job is to teach their child about social skills & personal responsibility. So by the time they are involved in sports, it’s a chance for their child to practice handling confrontation. Too many parents speak up on behalf of their kids, and the kids never learn how to do it for themselves. Too many 25 year olds in the world today that never learned the social skills they need to go out in the world & conquer, because their parent always spoke up for them. Sports is a great way to handle many of life’s challenges to prepare children for the real world. Great post!

    Reply
  30. While I agree with the general messaging, there is one fact the article misses.

    Combating the hover of today’s helicopter parent is a tricky manoeuvre, but there has to be accommodation made for some children whom don’t have the communication skills to speak up effectively if they feel put in a bad position – to them, the act of speaking to an authority figure is difficult.

    These children could be on the spectrum, or have less refined social skills than their peers. While many educators are now trained to recognize potential spectrum conditions, athletic coaches may not have the training.

    Reply
  31. Even tough I agree with the points made, one must admit that there are coaches AND coaches. Some are great coaches that inspire your kids and help them improve (winning or not), but I’ve seen coaches that are only there because they already have to be there with their kid, so they sign up for coaching…And they suck at it! And then you have a child that had a losing season AND didn’t learn or improve anything,…

    Reply
  32. I guess, but if you pay to play shouldn’t you have some say in what position you want to play? I have four boys all of them end up on d because they are big and skate backwards well. They would experience forward for a change.

    Reply
  33. I am curious…I have been a club parent for 2+ years now, and have been the parent sitting and watching many of the other parents go to the coach and then the club director about their complaints and issues over the years, and cringing for the coach and the club. That being said, this year the club we are with chose to have our coach, coach her own daughter. This has been a problem in that her daughter is not a great player (in all honesty!!!) and her daughter is the ONLY player that has played 100% of the season so far, even to the point of exhaustion. Do you suggest just sitting the season biting your tongue because of this, and consider it a frustrating year and a learning experience, or is there something you can recommend to help in this situation? Just as a side note, her daughter is a setter, in 100% of the time, and thus a key player/position in volleyball. Makes regular sets to a “phantom player” , in effect missing multiple points in a game. This is a club where the parents are paying $3500.00 plus travel ($2000) for the season, and the coach is getting paid for coaching, and does not have to pay for her own daughter to play. Thank you for any thoughts or suggestions. It has been a tough season to sit back and watch.

    Reply
    • I’ve been a volleyball coach for almost 30 years and have seen many situations like yours. Our club rule is, “practice time is equal, playing time is earned”.How many other setters are on this team? If so, are they demonstrably better at the position than the coach’s daughter?

      First suggestion, speak with the coach. If you cannot get a straight answer there, take it to the club director, but I would strongly caution you to keep it as factual and emotionally detached as possible. Most club directors have heard plenty of stories like this one and tend to take them with a grain of salt unless they 1) know you personally 2) know that you truly understand the game and are not just reacting like a helicopter parent, or 3) have heard multiple complaints about the same coach and are finally ready to do something about it.

      Not every coach remembers that they are teaching a GAME, and that if the kids aren’t having any kind of fun then they’re in the wrong place. I wish you and your child well.

      Reply
  34. I love this article! I wish all parents could read it and take it to heart. I have seen coaches (volunteers!) torn apart by parents in rec sports. Thank you for putting this out there!

    Reply
    • People throw around the “these coaches are volunteers” excuse way too often. People can volunteer for many reasons, good and bad. If I am volunteering as a coach to ensure that my kid and friends’ kids play at a higher level than they should or get more playing time than others, am I justified by saying I am a volunteer? There are good and bad in every part of life, but for some reason, I have seen more bad coaching than good. Too many hockey dads are trying to coach their kids to the NHL.

      Reply

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