Irish Grassroots Football

Effective tips for talking to your coach

Last week I received an email about a parent who wasn’t happy with his coach and asked about how to approach an issue. Well I’m delighted he did because it was a great question to ask and we all encounter a problem with a parent or coach at some stage.

Talk to the coach

If your child plays organised sports, there’s a good chance you will need to discuss an issue or problem with a coach. Regardless of the issue, your goal should be to work with the coach to reach a resolution that is best for everyone – your child, the team, the coach and you. Most importantly everyone should be in for the kids benefits.

How to get your message across

How you deliver your message will have a significant affect on whether you will be heard and whether your concerns will be addressed. If the issue is serious, don’t be afraid to talk with the coach. After all, you are your child’s only advocate and if you remain silent or let a problem fester too long, the situation may only get worse so finding an amicable resolution quickly, is very important.

Here are a few tips to help ensure communication with your child’s coach is positive and productive:

Approach your conversation in a cooperative, respectful and pleasant manner.

As a parent, you are heavily invested in your child’s well-being, as well as being emotionally invested. But if you let your emotions take control of the discussion, you risk angering the very person – the coach – who can help your child succeed in the sport. So stay level-headed (calm). Understand that the coach must balance the needs of individual players with the collective needs of the team. Coaches have the challenge of hearing and accommodating all their players, not just one (A good coach will treat all the kids the same).

Avoid talking to the coach right after a game or competition.

Emotions often run high after games, especially when a team loses. This is not a good time to approach a coach with complaints about playing time or suggestions about game strategy. Unless it’s an emergency, wait a day or two to bring your concerns to the coach. Gather your thoughts, let things settle back to normal. Check your emotions and you just might discover that what was so important at the time is not worth pursuing at the moment.

If, after a cool-down period, you still feel the need to approach the coach, contact him or her and schedule a time to meet. Make sure the meeting provides enough privacy so everyone can talk freely and enough time so no one feels rushed.

Remain calm and use an appropriate tone of voice.

The old adage “It’s not what you say but how you say it” comes into play here. If you approach a coach in an angry or accusatory (suggesting that one has done wrong) fashion, he or she is more inclined to dismiss your concern, and your message will get lost in the delivery. The right tone is a calm, even, conversational tone that fosters a feeling of cooperation and openness.

State your concerns, listen and keep an open mind.

State your concern in a straightforward and nonjudgmental manner, sticking to the facts. For example, blurting out, “Jack doesn’t get much playing time, and he thinks you don’t like him,” will only put the coach on the defensive.

Instead, take a non-accusatory stance: “It seems like Jack is playing less. Is there a problem I should be aware of, how can he get more playing time?” Here, you are inviting dialogue and requesting help, not making accusations. Listen to the coach’s response so you can fully understand the situation and mutually work toward a positive solution. A compromise may be in order, it might also be an opportunity for the child to set some personal goals.

A lesson in Life

Sometimes, however, the coach’s decision won’t be what you want. This is a perfect opportunity to teach your child that you sometimes have to accept an authority figure’s final word, even if you disagree with it. (You have the right to take your concerns to another authority figure like the clubs development coach, DOF or committee. But remember that he or she will most likely defer to a coach’s decisions).

As a parent, it’s up to you to set an example for your child on how to handle confrontation and disagreement with maturity and composure and there could be a life lesson here, that sometimes you just need to work that little bit harder.

I hope this helps!


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