[Editor’s Note: This entry was originally published by the author on LinkedIn on June 27, 2017. It is republished here with the author’s permission.]
Dear Sports Parents,
It’s me, your coach. I just wanted to drop you a line and let you know that I appreciate and recognize that you are among the group of “good parents” who support their child in athletics, the right way.
You may have noticed that you are a rare yet respected breed in this era of athlete entitlement which coaches of the world are slowly being swallowed by. The decision you have made to be supportive rather than critical of my leadership is something that radiates through your athlete. This gives me and many coaches like me, hope for the future of sports.
You are the parent who without fail, chooses to be helpful and offers solutions rather than creating additional problems. You are that parent who actively displays enthusiasm for your child as a member of my team. More often than not, I am seen as the one dimensional decision-maker who many parents seek to address personally only when expressing discontent with the inventory on their athlete’s playing time.
You are that parent who encourages your athlete to speak directly to the coach instead of just complaining. You do this because you realize in the world of shrinking lines of communication, your child will be a step ahead of the game if they strengthen their ability to advocate for themselves early on.
You are the same parent who unprompted, brings half time snacks or team Gatorade even when you are fully aware your child may or may not see many minutes out on the field or on the court.
As your child’s coach, I am not perfect but I am grateful that you see me as a person who is doing their absolute best rather than someone who is out to intentionally dilute or taint the experience of your athlete. There are countless coaches struggling to understand this generation, so please allow me to throw some praise your way from all different levels.
If I am Your Intramural, Travel or Club Coach
Please know that I am fully aware that your child did not get in the game today. She or he was not forgotten, overlooked nor is it a sign that I dislike them. While you may not agree with all of my decisions I see you continue to support the team and cheer on every athlete equally. I hope you recognize that because you are that parent who requires their child to make their own water jug, pack their own lunch and carry their own equipment, that these habits of independence will undoubtedly prepare them well for the later years in athletics and life.
You are that parent that holds your tongue when your child receives a penalty or has a foul called on them. You do not laugh or condone unsportsmanlike play and echo support for the coaching staff’s policies on this behavior. We recognize how hard this is as coaches when officiating is questionable but if we can do nothing to change a call, we appreciate that you recognize that your yelling won’t either.
You have probably noticed that sideline and fan control is an issue these days from youth to college but because you are the parent who works to soften the hostility off the field, you will always be regarded as an effective allies that our staff cherishes. With this level of support, trust that I will likely find more reasons to stay with coaching in the coming seasons rather than becoming exhausted thinking of reasons to quit.
When you discovered that our team schedule consisted of a big tournament the same weekend your child was invited to a party, you wasted no time explaining to your athlete that team commitments take priority. You do a fantastic job echoing our lessons of commitment and it shows in your athlete.
My routine of arriving 20 minutes early to set up for your child’s practice matches your punctuality as that parent whose child is always on time to games and training. It is clear from your child’s attitude and demeanor that you value and respect my time as your leader. This is a treasured attribute that I probably recognize less often than I should.
If I am Your High School Coach
I always appreciate your acknowledgment that coaching isn’t my only job. You are understanding that my $1000 stipend for 3 months, 3 hours every weekday is not exactly paying the bills. In many cases I am also a teacher who, without this commitment would likely go home and appreciate the few extra hours to grade. Yes, I am someone who gets paid to deal with kids all day who has now signed up to deal with kids for the REST of my day. However, you are complimentary of the fact that I am choosing to coach because I love it. Thank you for recognizing why I do what I do.
As the star player’s parents attempted to berate my coaching or decision to sit their child for not listening or upholding team standards, you stuck up for me and backed my methods of accountability. This is priceless in the world of coaching.
While a few other parents shouted at me during our last game urging me to take out certain players and put others in, you did your absolute best to help the situation and assertively suggested they allow me to do the job I was selected for. I appreciate this more than you know.
If I am Your College Coach
You are the parents who fully understand that this is likely how I make my living and if there is any dissatisfaction with my decisions regarding the program, you have kept it to yourself. I appreciate this and chances are, I already know how you feel because your athlete has no hesitation talking to me openly and honestly.
While it is clear you possess a high level of enthusiasm for the sport, you were the first to recognize that it is never appropriate to debate me on tactical coaching decisions. Instead, your interactions are limited to positive phrases like “Good game, Coach!” or perhaps “It’s ok, Coach, we will get them next time”. I fully understand that being silent is easier said then done when there is an emotional ending to a competition, but these kind words post game are ones I use as fuel to keep me inspired and energized.
I must not forget to thank you for your unwavering support for the rest of the team regardless of what the final score is. I also know that win or lose, it can be a much easier route to simply allow your athlete to blame me for their sport disappointments. However, as a great sport parent you are one that actively chooses to encourage your athlete to just work harder as opposed to placing blame on me or our staff.
As a coach, I am fully aware that it can be heartbreaking to watch your athlete sit on the bench. Please understand that despite your child not being a starter, their enthusiasm and commitment ignites the team in other ways and the value of their positivity is endless. Your athlete’s responses are a true testament that you are doing it right far beyond the confines of the athletic field.
Although at times I am forced to dedicate attention to the athlete whose conflict within the team outweighs their positive contribution, I am grateful that you understand that I am as judicious as possible with my time and will always help your athlete when needed.
As your coach, I can often see a great deal of what happens at home based on how your child responds to rejection, change and adversity. For this, I commend you for being a great sport parent of your athlete.
Thank you for being one of those who does it right. – Coach
A Note from The Author:
When I first published the “Open Letter to the Athlete we Must Stop Recruiting” The outpouring of feedback was tremendous. Almost immediately I began to receive requests from readers insisting I author a letter to parents about their poor behavior in sport. This kind of response told me two things. First, coaches are tired of dealing with the long line of issues that seem to have tripled in length with all the new challenges of entitlement. Second, many coaches felt a strong connection with the recruiting letter and are desperate to be defended against the parents of the current generation.
As a result of the mountain of requests, I sat down to type out a letter to the parents of today’s athletes to let them know where they were falling short. While it took me only 25 minutes to pen the original recruiting letter to the athletes that garnished over 1.8 million hits, the parent topic had me stuck. This was not because I was lacking knowledge or understanding of the subject but, there were a few major hang-ups on my end.
I wrote the recruiting letter because I was frustrated with recruits. If I were to write about my own team’s parents it wouldn’t be a genuine perspective out of direct experience because I have an incredible group of supportive and enthusiastic parents. The idea felt false and I wasn’t excited to write it.
As coaches, we all have problem athletes from time to time that we stew over when trying to get them to reach their potential, follow basic rules or fall in line with team culture. These athletes take up much of our time and sometimes, we fail to praise the ones who are doing it right. This is exactly what I would be doing if I had authored a letter scolding sport parents.
After considering these two major points, I decided not to engage in the negative. I began to mentally analyze whether my athletes who were putting in their work were receiving more validation in their efforts compared to the problem athletes who were consistently warranting the wrong kind of attention.
Remember, there are countless people working in jobs that feel completely thankless. Even when we enjoy our job, if we are not validated in what we do through verbal praise, performance reviews/results or monetary compensation, the road can seem long and fruitless. Eventually, when hard work or commitment goes repeatedly unnoticed, it’s no surprise that the work rate may slow or disappear all together. This is no different than our athletes but also the parents. There are endless resources telling them how terrible they are and I opted not to add to the monotony.
I concluded that I had no desire to highlight the category of parents who are doing it wrong because those who are doing it right deserve some spotlight for a change.
As a result, I sat down to write this letter. I encourage you to share this much as possible, but more importantly to discuss it with your fellow coaches and recognize the ones within your parental support system who deserve these words. The power to influence with positive is far greater than negative.