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 6 Ways You Can Help Resolve a Coach-Athlete Conflict

6 Ways Parents Can Help Their Athlete Resolve a Coach-Athlete Conflict

Tips for smooth coach-parent communication when it comes to conflict

When a young athlete has a conflict with their coach, it’s often hard for parents to know exactly how to handle it. It’s tempting to immediately interfere and email the coach on behalf of your child, but that’s not always the best solution for your growing athlete.

Helping your athlete advocate for themselves and deal with conflict head-on, rather than relying on you to have the hard conversations, is going to be better for your child in the long-term. Nadia Kyba, MSW, TrueSport Expert and President of Now What Facilitation, shared these tips for smooth coach-parent communication when it comes to conflict.

Open Lines of Communication Early

Ideally, a coach will have a meeting with parents of players earlier in the season, but if the coach doesn’t organize one, consider asking to set one up. Kyba explains that this early discussion of what the season looks like, how the coach approaches conflict, and the best ways to communicate with him or her can avoid conflict entirely or provide a script for how to deal with it when it does happen.

“Having that meeting at the beginning of the season can let you and the coach discuss expectations about how to manage conflicts, as well as setting boundaries around certain communication methods and meeting times.” She adds that a good rule is to avoid meeting or communicating with a coach within 24 hours of a competition or race to allow time for all parties to cool off from any conflicts.

Coaches Are People Too

Remember, coaches have a lot of demands on their time, and at the school sport level, likely aren’t getting paid much to lead the team. There is a lot of pressure on them, and parents often forget this when they feel their athletes are being ignored or under-appreciated.

“Sometimes, it's a full-time job just managing the parents,” Kyba notes. “I’ve seen many coaches who are so generous with their time, they're so committed and passionate, and they just want to coach – but actually what they're doing is getting bombarded by emails from parents.”

Before you send an annoyed email, bear in mind that your child may be dealing with a conflict, but the coach is likely inundated with other issues as well.

Watch Your Temper

This applies to both how you approach a coach and how you speak to your athlete about the coach, says Kyba. It’s likely that you’re inclined to side with your child in a conflict situation but remember that insulting the coach in front of your athlete encourages them to lose respect for the coach as well.

"We all have people we don't really like, but we still need to respect or get along with them, and that's an important lesson for kids to learn from you,” says Kyba. Additionally, yelling at a coach is likely going to embarrass your child more than it helps them.

Encourage Your Athlete to Communicate Directly with The Coach

Taking matters into your own hands rather than letting the athlete handle coach communication is common for parents, says Kyba. But unfortunately, it’s rarely effective: Coaches are less likely to want to help an athlete whose parent is always speaking for them, and are much more likely to be impressed by an athlete who communicates directly.

“When your child is empowered to manage the conflict, it’s better for them in the long-term,” says Kyba. You can help your athlete practice the hard conversations, but let your child learn to handle conflict.

Write It Out

Teach your child to understand what his conflict or complaint actually is, and what resolution he would like to see.

“The script I use is simple: You describe the issue. Then, you name what you're feeling about it. Then, you talk about your need. And finally, what is your request?” Kyba explains. Sometimes, the final request will show that the conflict isn’t with the coach at all but is about the athlete needing to do something differently. Gaining clarity before asking for a meeting will help avoid making the conflict bigger.

Know When to go to The Administration

It’s important to remember that there are personality-based conflicts, such as disagreement over which player is starting in a game or a problem with a certain aspect of practice, that should be worked out between the coach and the athlete. But there are others, where an athlete feels bullied or there’s any type of physical or emotional harassment, that should be addressed to the proper authorities immediately. When personal safety and mental health are at risk, as a parent, you need to seek outside help and shouldn’t feel conflicted about doing so.

Try and look at the big picture before asking for a meeting with the coach – or sending an angry email in the heat of the moment.

Kyba recommends pressing pause and waiting a full 24 hours to cool down before taking the next step. Often, that distance will allow you and your athlete to tame feelings of anger and have a more rational discussion. You might even find that the entire conflict will seem a lot less serious the next day.

TrueSport®, a movement powered by the experience and values of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, champions the positive values and life lessons learned through youth sport. TrueSport® inspires athletes, coaches, parents, and administrators to change the culture of youth sport through active engagement and thoughtful curriculum based on cornerstone lessons of sportsmanship, character-building, and clean and healthy performance, by creating leaders across communities through sport.



Cuddyer's Corner
By Michael Cuddyer

Former Major Leaguer Michael Cuddyer discusses how consistency in baseball is key. To have your questions answered by Michael Cuddyer, submit them using #USABMailbag on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.

Michael Cuddyer is a 15-year MLB veteran and two-time All-Star, spending his career playing for the Minnesota Twins, Colorado Rockies and the New York Mets. A member of the USA Baseball 18U National Team in 1996 and 1997, Cuddyer was then named the 1997 Virginia Player of the Year, Gatorade National Player of the Year, and was a member of USA Today’s All-Star team. He was selected ninth overall in the 1997 MLB Amateur Player Draft by the Minnesota Twins.

 Pitcher Covers First Base After Diving Stop

Pitcher Covers First Base After Diving Stop

Monday Manager
By Tom Succow

In this edition of Monday Manager, four-time USA Baseball coaching alum Tom Succow discusses a pitcher covering first base after a diving stop by the first baseman.

Tom Succow is currently the assistant coach at Yavapai College in Prescott, Arizona. In 2017, Succow retired as the Head Baseball Coach at Brophy College Preparatory in Phoenix, Arizona, after 42 years at the helm. Succow accumulated over 700 wins during his tenure, as well as a state championship in 2006 and three state runner-up honors in 1982, 2007 and 2012. Succow is a four-time USA Baseball coaching alum, including an assistant coaching position with the 2003 16U National Team, which won the gold medal in the International Baseball Federation AA World Youth Championships in Taiwan. Succow was honored by the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) as National Coach of the Year in 2007 and is a member of four Halls of Fames, being inducted into the Arizona Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2003, the Brophy Hall of Fame in 2007, the National High School Baseball Coaches Association (BCA) Hall of Fame in 2013, and the Arizona High School Athletic Coaches Hall of Fame in 2016.


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