We Are All Crazy Sometimes

How do you deal with crazy coaches? I can’t believe how often we are asked that question. The next most frequent question comes from coaches, “How do you deal with crazy parents?”
The problem starts with the game itself.

Softball is such a wonderful game. When things go well you can feel great for days. These emotions are also the enemy. We can come crashing down if we let emotions control us, and we make decisions that we soon regret.
In a nutshell, here is the main problem. Crazy parents drive the good coaches out of the game. I have known several great coaches who threw up their hands and quit. They find a good kid with potential, spend dozens of hours teaching her the game, helping raise money for her team, spending their own money on equipment, and lying awake at night trying to think of ways to help her be a better player. Then, one day the coach doesn’t start this kid in the big game. The parents fly into a rage and that one decision is more important in minds of the parents than all of the great things the coach did for all of those kids. If we keep driving the good ones out of the game, what is left?
There is another side to the issue. A lot of unqualified people jump into coaching and form teams. Some have good intentions, but there is a huge learning curve. They will make big mistakes along the way. Some just love running around with the word “coach” on their shirt. They finally get to be in charge of something. That is not a good sign. And, then there are the ones who think that this is a great way to help their daughter be the star she deserves to be.
It comes down to this. Bad coaches will not last unless we keep feeding them players. Ultimately it is up to parents to make wise decisions for their kids. Ask questions before joining a team. Interview every single parent on the team in a private setting and ask hard questions about fairness, player development, the personality of the coach, financial practices, the mission of the team, and things they like and don’t like about the coach. If the coach doesn’t encourage this type of research, that is probably a big red flag.
Get to know the coach. Go to games, before joining the team, and watch the coach carefully. See how kids interact with that person. Watch the behavior of parents and see if that is an environment you want. If you just run to a tryout and accept a position without a ton of research, you are starting on the wrong foot. Too often parents and players are so honored by making a team they leap before they look.
Go and watch a team practice several times before tryouts. Ask if your daughter can practice with them a few times or serve as a fill-in player. Get to know them. If you join a team with a bad coach you failed to do your homework.
A couple of other points. If you have jumped teams 3-4 times in the last two years, the problem is you. You either didn’t do your homework, or nobody is good enough to coach your daughter. Understand that she may get into a tough situation at times, but try to help her learn to work through it. Life is not easy. She will always have to deal with difficult people, so sometimes these situations help her grow and learn to deal with them in healthy ways. Remember that you helped her get into this place. Help her to learn that running away from challenges is always the last resort. Helping kids learn to succeed in the face of adversity is an important life lesson.
Finally, determine your daughter’s needs and find someone who matches them. One of the best coaches I have ever known was tough and demanding. The kids were intimidated by him in some ways, respected him, and listened to every word he said. He influenced lives. It was exactly what our daughter wanted at the time and she grew so much. A lot of people did not like him because he was “too tough”.
One of the best coaches I ever knew was always positive, funny, and constantly showered praise on the kids. It was exactly what our daughter needed at this time in her life and she flourished again. Yet, some people were critical because she wasn’t “tough enough” on the kids. The perfect coach can be the one that matches our daughters’ needs at a particular time. If you don’t know exactly what your daughter needs in a coach, you are unlikely to be satisfied.
If you are inexperienced and don’t know how to choose a coach, look for people who had great experiences with their kids. Learn from their wisdom. Avoid those who jumped teams every year. They never figured it out. Avoid those who just want their daughter to be the star. You don’t want to be on a team that made them happy. Quit trying to find a perfect coach. Find the coach who is perfect for your daughter’s needs at the time. When you find that person, show support and express gratitude regularly. We want to keep that coach on the job.
If you are thoroughly convinced it is bad coaching, take your player and go elsewhere. Either you will find a better situation for your daughter, or his team will become better because he just got rid of a crazy parent. Time will tell which one was right.