My son has a coach who clearly doesn’t like him. Even other parents on the team say he is extra mean to him, the coach even blamed him once for a loss to the entire team. My son seems to take it in stride, but the coach is pulling him out of the game anytime he makes a mistake and we can see his confidence slowly starting to drop. Should we talk to the coach or just get through the season and find a new team next season?
Raising Kids to Compete and Win
Peak Performance Coach
(For this example, let’s assume the sport is basketball). This is an age-dependent question, but assuming he’s old enough to understand the correlation between making mistakes and being taken out, I would encourage HIM to go directly to the coach. If he is feeling shy about this, you should do a role play with him before he actually goes up to the coach. If you’d like to be there with him so you can hear the feedback as well and be able to reiterate it to him, that’s fine, but as best you can, let him drive the conversation and receive the feedback.
Prior to meeting with the coach, brainstorm some questions together of things he could ask him:
“Coach, can you tell me about your substitution policy? I noticed several times in the last game where things didn’t go the way I planned and I got subbed out. Was that intentional? Or just a coincidence? What can I do different next time as I love playing?”
“Coach, what are one or two things I can work on so I can get more playing time? I really love being out there with my teammates, I know I don’t always make the right pass, but I’d like to get better.”
When a (good) coach hears a player asking, “How can I get better?” This is music to his ears. So listen for how the coach articulates the feedback. Is he giving good tangible skills he could be working on (I.e, “You need to work on your bounce-passing. We worked on this in practice last week and I mentioned that any one who didn’t make a bounce pass was going to get subbed out.” or “You need to work on your shooting. If you’d like some feedback on your form, I’m happy to help you in the next practice.”)
From this conversation alone, you should be able to gauge how invested the coach is in helping his players get better and/or his lack of awareness of their coaching style. Either way, it’s great information for your son and awesome for him to build his confidence by asking! It’s the same skill we want kids to have with their teachers, if he doesn’t do well on a test, he needs to be the one to advocate for himself, which is going to lead to greater self-esteem, which is going to lead to greater competence and eventually to the holy grail -- confidence! The more internal confidence and belief in he has, the better able he is to know his opinion counts and he can and should use his voice.
If your son has the conversation, works on what is asked and you don’t see any improvement, then you should take the step of speaking directly to the coach as well. There is no “one size fits all” answer here on whether you should stay for the season if you feel it is jeopardizing his confidence, but start with working directly with the coach, if that doesn’t work, get a director involved and then together you can make a decision what is best for your son in this season.