On my weekly radio show on Sunday, May 20, I had an interesting caller. My show that morning was about attitude and how it effects your level of play. The discussion revolved around how athletes, parents and coaches can respond to positive and negative comments. The caller stated that his 10 year old daughter played on a competitive soccer team. Recently, after the team had played a bad game the female coach got upset and told the players that they “sucked”. He called to ask my opinion of what had happened and my opinions about what to do. I had numerous comments for this caller.
I think it is inexcusable for a coach of any youth sports team to tell the athletes either as individuals or as a team that they “sucked”. What could this coach have been thinking? What would be the reason that a coach at any level of youth sports would make this kind of statement to their athletes? How would a group of 10 year old girls respond to this kind of comment? As a parent, what should you do when you hear your child’s coach make this kind of statement?
First, I want to emphasize the philosophy of the National Alliance of Youth Sports (NAYS). Fred Engh, the founder of NAYS, has spoken with me numerous times on my show and always reinforces that in youth sports you should let the athletes play, let the coaches coach and let the parents parent. This may seem rather simplistic, but if most people followed this philosophy, we would have fewer problems in the world of youth sports. However, sometimes I believe it is important for parents to speak up to coaches and for coaches to speak up to parents.
In this situation, I feel this coach was totally out of line. There is no excuse for any coach at any level of youth sports to speak to their athletes or team in this manner. Self-confidence is one of the most sensitive and easily destroyed aspects of any person’s personality, especially that of a 10 year old. It is obvious that the coach’s main concern focused on winning, because it she was more interested in the personal growth and development of the athletes, she would have never made this statement, or used the term “sucked”. 10 year old soccer players, whether male or female are going to make mistakes, play good games and bad games and more than likely be more interested in where they are going to eat after the game than how they played.
My suggestion to this father was that if this was typical of this coach to talk in this manner, than it would be imperative to speak with the coach privately about his concerns. I suggested that he emphasize why he was upset with her language, but more importantly that he express his concern about the message she was giving these young girls. I like to talk with my clients about how self-confidence is one of the easiest personality traits to lose and one of the hardest to gain. Letting the coach know his feelings in a constructive fashion could not only prevent this from happening again, but also may help this coach realize the role she may be playing in the development of these young girl’s lives.
As always, I believe it is important to have a preseason meeting with the coach of your child’s team. The purpose of this meeting is to not only discuss the goals of the season, but to also speak with the coach about his/her philosophy about winning and losing and about how the coach will be coaching. Usually, you will be able to determine in this meeting if the coach is more concerned with wins and losses than with teaching and development. This meeting will help you make the decision if this coach and team are the one for your child.