THE PARENT-COACH RELATIONSHIP by Coach Mike Candrea
Both parenting and coaching can be quite a challenge at times. Having an understanding and a respect for both positions will help children have a better experience in sport. Ultimately, that is our job as a parent or coach – to provide an environment that protects and supports the pursuit of personal growth and excellence while enjoying the experience. Clear communication between parents and coaches can help all understand the position of the other and enhance the positive experience that can be gained from participation in athletics.
Here are some guidelines on communication that you should expect from your child’s coach. The first and most important step is to identify what type of coach this person is and what is their philosophy. In the early stages of development, the coach should understand how to teach the fundamental skills of the game, make the learning process fun, and will not put emphasis on wins and losses. As we move through the journey of athletics, there will come a time when the competitive atmosphere becomes a must, but not until the basic skills are taught and developed. Here is a good measure to understand the skill level vs. challenge and how they affect the athlete.
Low Skill + High Challenge = Frustration High Skill + Low Challenge = Boredom
We also need some basic information from the coach such as expectations and goals for the team, as well as goals for the individual players. Coaches should provide information on the location and time of practices and games, as well as team requirements. As a parent, you should be privy to these requirements and consequences for infractions. I recommend a meeting at the beginning of the season for coaches, parents and players to discuss these matters and get everyone on the same page.
To make this process seamless and productive, coaches should expect the parents to communicate directly to the coach when parents have concerns, notification of any schedule conflict in advance, illness or injury as soon as possible. It is always appropriate to have a discussion with a coach if you have concerns regarding the treatment of your child, want to find out ways to help improve your child’s experience, or concerns regarding your child’s behavior, however parents should never interrupt an on-going practice or game to discuss these matters, but set up a meeting with the coach before or after a practice or game.
Coaches must be able to make decisions based on what they believe is the best for all athletes. Areas that must be left up to the discretion of the coach are: Playing time, Team strategy, Play calling, and Placement of athletes on the field. In other words, common sense must be used by both parents and coaches to discuss concerns and always have the athlete’s best interest. The most successful teams contain strong leadership, consistency, great communication, and players that improve and enjoy the experience.
BRINGING ENERGY TO THE FIELD
A key word that I find myself using more and more during practice and competitions is the word Energy. I sometime wonder if players truly understand the importance of energy and how the lack of it can affect the ultimate goal of playing as a team. You always hear that softball is a team sport that is played by individuals. We all know that the best team usually wins the competition and not the best individuals.
Over the years, I have found how important the positive energy of a team can set the mood for performances that result in more success than not. How do we get our players to understand the importance of bringing that energy to the ballpark whether we are playing a game or executing a practice session? Softball provides many moments to become selfish or negative. After all we play a game of failure and the best players are not always successful. We all can remember a teammate or two that just had a bad attitude. When things are going well, they are great teammates – supportive, caring, positive, and engaged. When they go 0-3, make an error, give up a big hit, they tend to shut down and become selfish, negative, and disengaged from the atmosphere required for good teams to be successful. They take all the air out of the dugout, create tension in their teammates, and create an atmosphere that is never fun. Great teams are truly unselfish and there is never a weak link – ever!! If we are truly playing a team sport, it is important for young players to learn to control the controllable. We cannot control much that may happen in a game but we can always control our attitude, effort, and energy! After all, a player who continues to mope around after a mistake will guarantee thet they will continue to make mistakes.
The greatest thing about high energy is you tend to not worry about yourself and you become more connected to just playing the game and your focus is intensely on the team. This state of mind allows you to play the game without fear and in a more relaxed state. After all, softball is a game of relaxed skills. The more relaxed you are, the more success you will have. Each player is responsible for the energy they bring to the team and energy should never go into a slump! If we will all understand that it takes a total team effort to win games, the day will come when we eliminate selfish concerns such as batting average, ERA, and focus on winning the At Bat, inning, game, and eventually that championship we all would like to experience.
Energy is the greatest asset to creating a passion in life. We all know that to be great at something, passion is a key to finding success in life. I can honestly say that I have never known a highly successful coach, player, parent, or team that was not full of energy, positive thinking, and totally engaged. ENERGY is a wonderful fuel for life!!
Olympic Coach Mike Candrea