The Good Side of the Field

By Tyler Isaacson, founder of youthsoccer101.com

I occasionally hear comments made behind my back while I am coaching.  I almost never turn around and try to keep my eyes on the field.  soccer-coachMy wife hears things more often than I do because she is generally on the other side of the field, with the parents, many of whom don’t know who she is. Believe it or not, I even receive emails and text messages with “ideas” about who should be playing where and who should be on the bench. Do they understand I am a volunteer and I am doing this for the kids?  I decided to write a little note to the parents to give them my side of the story.

Dear All the Parents of the Players I Have Coached,

First, you need to know how I got into coaching. I received an email from one of the leaders of my local sports organization, stating that my son would not have a team to play on unless someone stepped up to be the coach. It is a real struggle to find volunteer coaches these days, and I inquired about how many hours it would take a week to do this. After a few phone conversations with the age group coordinator, we figured on between three and five hours a week, which included a one-hour practice and a one-hour game on the weekend. I figured in some travel time, ice cream runs with the players and a few miscellaneous things to get to the max of five hours a week. That’s all? The way I looked at it, this commitment would really only occupy a couple hours on two days a week.  Eliminate one show or sporting event on TV and this should not be a problem. This was rec., how hard could it be?

I jumped in with both feet without much of an idea of what I was doing. It was a little crazy the first few weeks getting to know the players and their parents. After a while, I was really enjoying this volunteer coaching thing, and there were tools available for me to do a pretty good job. I came prepared for practice with a plan that was age appropriate, I communicated with the team parents with an online scheduling program, and I kept things really fun. The players seemed to enjoy themselves.

Fast forward to a few years later, and I hear directly from a 10-year-old’s mouth, “My mom said you don’t know what you are doing.” I was shocked and caught totally off guard. My first reaction was to hunt down this woman and give her an ear full.

“Hey lady, I am the one who stepped up a few years back to save this team, I leave work an hour early to get here on time, I am not retired, I have other children just like you….” I could go on and on. I finished out the practice and as time went by, my anger started to subside.

After thinking back on the last couple of years of coaching, yeah, I make mistakes, and we don’t win all our games, but I know full well that the players I coach are having fun, learning the game and progressing nicely. I even get to spend an extra three to five hours a week with my child and his friends at practices and games. I help support the local community by volunteering for the club.

This letter is for all the volunteers out there who bust their butts to do the best they can for the kids. When you hear negative parents on the sidelines, just take a look at the smiling faces around you and realize how lucky you are to be on this side of the field. For those who are reading this and have not made it to this side of the field — there is plenty of room. Volunteer today, you can find the time!

Tyler Isaacson is a club president, travel coach, recreation coach, youth player, college player and dad. He has 30 years of playing and coaching experience. He is the founder of youthsoccer101.com a leader in on-line coaching education used by 50K coaches.

Responses...

Anonymous  

Hi Tyler, I feel like I could have written this exact same article, except with a focus on fast pitch softball. The only thing I would add is it makes it all worth it when a parent says, “My daughter loves being on this team.” Thanks again!

Paul Banco  

Tyler,

OUTSTANDING Post!

Tyler  

You can relate this to almost any youth sport today. Volunteer coaches do not get the respect they deserve but the ones who do it for the kids are the ones who hopefully get rewarded in some little way by a thank you or a pat on the back!

Anonymous  

Agreed. Being a coach is a thankless job that most do for selfless reasons. However, a simple Thank You from one of your players or parents at the end of a practice or game makes it all worth it.

Marshall  

Thanks for the post, Tyler! You’re right; I LOVE being on “this side of the field.” The time and energy it takes can be exhausting at times. The stress I put on myself of “am I being fair to all of the kids” gets to me at times. Then I remember, they are 7 years old and this is progressional-instructional baseball. A dad came bustling up to me today, apologized for his daughter not having her hat and offered to rush home and get it. I looked at him and said, “They’re 7 years old. Relax and enjoy watching your daughter play for a couple of hours.”

Also … I keep a “Volunteer Form”, “Background Check Form” and my NYSCA Membership Card in a folder just in case a parent needs a reminder that they are welcome to sign up as well. I’ve not had to pull them out, yet.

Tyler  

That is a great idea to have the “volunteer forms” on hand-I love it!

John  

Nice article Tyler. I don’t coach soccer but I do coach & convene house league hockey. I don’t think I can say that I have personally had the specific parent problem you describe but I have seen it directed at other coaches. Last season especially was difficult with one particular parent working the crowd trying to generate negativity against one of our coaches.

The worst parents are frequently the ones who’s kids have a bit more talent but not always. I must say though that it’s often a small number of the coaches who present even more of a challenge on a continual basis.

House league is supposed to be fun and also fair for the kids, meaning equal ice time. We sometimes run into coaches who quickly lose track of this and instead focus on winning. Usually when they have a short bench, rather than giving the extra shifts to their weaker players or sharing them equally with all of the players, they only put the better kids on the ice hoping to score that extra goal and get the win. They abuse the referees and even use inappropriate language in front of the kids on the bench.

Struggle as I might against this with these individuals, year after year, I usually find the only way to end it is to get rid of them. Fortunately, this type of character is in the minority and if more people stepped up to volunteer maybe they could become extinct.

Anonymous  

This is the same situation for scout leaders. I’ve learned a lot about people from volunteering. We call our official complaint form, the “Boy Scouts of America Adult Volunteer Application form.” I’ve learned to listen to their complaints nicely and then I hand them the form and ask them to fill out their “feedback” on this form. Once they realize what the form is… they get the message loud and clear.

Anonymous  

Very nice article, I would like to add that sometimes parents say negative things in front of me/coach’s wife on purpose so I would either report it back to my husband or confront them during the game. It is disappointing how many parents try this approach instead of just asking the coach or working with their son to improve! I have even heard parents comment on a player’s performance in front of the player and the player is hurt by the negative remarks. I heard a high school coach once say during his parent meeting, “I love coaching your son’s , dealing with parents is the part I don’t enjoy.” And it is too bad how true that statement really is at times.

Roger S  

Most of the parents are fine, but you do now and then get one. I brush it off, (though now and then I feel bad for their child as the fun is sucked out of the experience.)

I had a real tough parent one season, who was particularly hard to deal with in the final game of the season. All better one season later when 22 kids asked to be on the team I was coaching (of a team with 12 slots), and that was not counting most of the regulars I had for years. Figured I must be doing something right.

Anonymous  

I coached my son baseball team for 6 yrs basketball for 5 yrs. I had good parents for most part I think these parents who like to nag should coach for 1 week the would c how much time and energy goes into it .thanks would always come after that im sure.

Anonymous  

I’ve experienced it, and I see it with other coaches now. There is no way to avoid it completely, but there are a few tips and tricks:

1) If you have a choice, avoid having kids on your team that are convinced they’re better than they actually are. This is the 1st clue that the parents are problematic. Where do you think he/she got that idea in the first place?
2) Hold a parents meeting before the season and explain that the goal is to develop a TEAM. The weaker links will get more attention, because the rest of the team depends on their development in order to win. This act alone turns the expectations upside-down.
3) Pull aside your better players and their parents when possible and explain that you expect them to act like assistant coaches, helping the weaker players improve, creating better talent around them so the team can eventually win. Now, the acknowledgment and ego boosting these parents seek can center around their kids active participation in the improvement of their team mates and not their standing out ahead of them.
4) Use these stronger players wisely, utilizing their skills at key points in games so that they actually do help the team win. Example: on my LL baseball team, I always try to use a developing pitchers in the first couple of innings with the intent of getting them reps and experience without putting them into crucial situations. If one of them needs help, we’ll call on an ace to save the day, get the big strikeout, shut down an offense, etc. This feeds the ego without sacrificing the others’ development.
5) At all times, foster an ambience of “family” and “team”. Play time should not be a competition. The better players should act like older brothers helping and rooting for their younger siblings. Coach’s time and effort should be fairly doled out to EVERYONE. Help the better players become EVEN better.

If after all this, you still have problems with parents, you can ignore it and rest your head soundly that you did everything correctly and helped an entire group of players improve. The complaining parents would complain under any circumstance and do not deserve even a moment of your concern.

Mark  

Tyler,
It is scary how much my story mirrors yours… and from the other comments, I see that we are part of a large fraternity.
I’ve been a volunteer coach for park & rec, and for a club team for over 15 years, now. I’ve coached teams for both of my sons until they reached high-school.
And my wife has done the same coaching volleyball with our daughters.
We were surprised, at first, by the attitudes of some parents and the general lack of respect & consideration given to coaches. It was upsetting to the point that we both considered giving it up.
But, like you, we were able to put the good before the bad and chose to focus on how wonderful it is to be able to spend quality time with our kids in a healthy way… and occasionally have a positive effect on other kids as well.

Post a response...

Please don't post support questions here. Contact support@teamsnap.com for all your support goodness and fastest service from our crack support team.

(optional)
(optional)
(optional)