Sometimes You Have to be the Parent

Most of us learned pretty quickly that coaching girls is far different from coaching boys.

A big difference is that parents are generally more protective of their daughters. They will react in an instant if they feel you are treating their little girl unfairly. This phenomenon could explain why so many players jump from team to team in search of the perfect fit. Having spent a lot of time coaching girls on several levels, I have seen some interesting parents. People get in the middle of things when they should stay silent. Others should be far more aggressive in protecting their daughters. Let’s talk about the difference. When should you step forward and be the parent?
1–When your daughter is feeling pain. Several years ago a young pitcher emerged and led her team to new heights. When a nagging injury threatened to sideline her, the coach assured the parents it was nothing to be concerned about and that she should play through the pain. The inexperienced parents trusted the coach and encouraged the girl to push through it. Her promising career soon ended. Coaches can’t be familiar with every injury and every risk. Some of them simply want to win so badly that they are in denial. And, there is another, related situation. Sometimes kids do not want to let their team down and try to “tough it out”. Slow things down. Take responsibility. You are the “level headed” one. Seek answers until you are confident that she can continue to play safely.
2–When a coach is using inappropriate tactics, language, or actions. Get out of that mess quickly. We are not just building softball players, but also molding young lives. Before joining a new team, meet with parents and players and make sure the culture of the team matches your daughter’s needs.
3–When someone tries to change something that should not be changed. This is a very delicate area. The coach is the coach. Joining his team indicates acceptance of his role. However, there are times when, with the best of intentions, coaches take it too far. A new student came to me who was struggling with basic mechanics. We spent weeks getting her on track. At the first practice one of the coaches tried to make a major change in her form which would have taken her right back where she had been before. The parents calmly and firmly intervened. They explained that they were spending a lot of money on lessons to fix specific things and they asked for time for the kid to become comfortable with the changes. The coach reluctantly agreed, but became curious about our approach. Soon he began studying with us.
There are times when I have been at a field where a team is practicing. A coach will ask me to take a look at one of the pitchers. I respectfully decline unless the parents or the pitcher ask for my help. Too many inputs can confuse her. We do like to work with the coaches. Our pitchers know they can invite their coaches to come to our lessons so they can understand what we are doing and how to keep the pitcher on track. Good coaches jump at the chance.
4-When the coach is not setting a proper example. This can range from terrible sportsmanship to terrible coaching. Are practices organized and efficient? Does the team have a very clear mission? Every week I am surprised at how much impact we have on kids. Young players are often looking at coaches as role models. I hear parents say, “Oh, her coach is terrible, but he has a good heart”. If you have a good heart does that mean you don’t have to perform? Is that a good life lesson? Of course not, but neither is winning at all cost. Take the time to get it right and find great people to put in her path. If you make mistakes you don’t get to go back and do it over again,
5—When they play too much. Every college coach I meet complains about this. Kids are coming to school without proper fundamentals, with nagging injuries, and simply burned out on softball. They never had time to refine their skills because they were playing every single weekend. Their bodies grew out of balance, their nutrition was terrible, no time for proper strength training, and in some cases their grades suffered. They have no healthy balance in their social lives, so when the freedom of college comes their way many of them have no idea how to deal with it in healthy fashion. Parents have to be the mature ones and demand time off for their kids.
6—Finally, when you find that great coach, take time to let him or her know how much it was appreciated. They give up most of their personal lives for this, so a little thanks means so much. That is a great way to step up as a parent.
Our last point is this. How much parents should intervene is age-related. Be mature enough to allow her to mature. Let her learn to handle things. If she has questions about playing time, things she needs to improve, her role on the team, or why the coaches make certain decisions, let her learn to ask. Being a parent sometimes means helping her learn to deal with uncomfortable situations. That is part of the growth process. The more she learns to deal with different coaching personalities, strategies, and how to fit into the team, the better equipped she will be to take it to the next level.
Life is not always fair. Neither is softball. But, every experience can be an opportunity for growth, and a chance for her to shape her character. You won’t always be there to protect her against bumps and bruises, but you can help her learn perspective, ethics, values, how to know the difference between things that are negotiable and those that are not. She is watching and learning from you. Your choices, the environment in which you place her, and the way you handle things will stick in her memory and behavior long after the game is forgotten.

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Comments

  1. As a parent and a coach your words hit home. As a coach I hear and see what you are talking about. As a parent I am lucky to have controlled the training/practice environment and number of games. Someday soon I will.need to let my daughter find a team I don’t coach so she is ready to deal with these issues as she goes into high school. Great insight.