Wednesday, December 4, 2013

What if the coach actually does suck?

We've all read plenty about poor behavior demonstrated by parents, players, coaches and umpires. Deep down -- even if we've displayed that behavior ourselves -- I think we all know when we're in the wrong. Especially if our behavior is directed toward a volunteer. And, if you've been around youth sports for a while, you've probably figured out that most vitriol toward coaches is directly related to playing time.

But, what if the coach sucks? I'm not talking about physical or emotional abuse. That's a whole different blog post. What if the coach just isn't a good coach?

This is a tough one. If it's a volunteer coach, then there's not much that can or should be done. This person is volunteering time. Sometimes because there's no one else stepping up. Sometimes because a recreational league has approached this person and said, "If the kids are going to play, someone has to coach." In cases like this, a parent should buy some medication for the tongue-biting they will be doing. Or better yet, if the parent can contribute something then they should talk to the coach about helping.

The one I've struggled with lately is when it involves a coach who is being paid at the middle or high school levels. Your tax dollars at work. And, it might be the nicest guy in the world with great intentions. So what do you do when you see some or all of the following?
  • Team does not learn fundamental aspects of the game despite practicing more than most select programs.
  • There doesn't seem to be accountability for lack of effort. 
  • Team makes more mental mistakes than opponents. 
  • Team does not hustle, and there are no apparent interventions from the coach.
Notice that I'm not talking about winning or losing. That's not a fair way to evaluate a youth coach. But, kids should be learning fundamentals. And, they should learn that you must work hard and focus if you want to play.

So, back to the original question. What do you do when the coach sucks?

Recently, I thought about sending an e-mail or scheduling an appointment with a coach. I followed the "24-hour rule" -- one that I suggest to parents and coaches as a Little League coach and board member. And, after that 24 hours, I decided to use the tongue-biting method rather than sending a poisoned e-mail. Instead, I talked to my child about always playing his best no matter what. He is still representing himself and his team, and his effort level at practices and games will give him pride even if it doesn't translate to wins or more playing time. And, with swollen tongue, I hope that this will serve as a valuable lesson that he can apply to the "real world" later in life. My healthy tongue can't help him when he has a lousy boss someday.

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