Main Navigation

Left Navigation

Content

The Players' Zone


 
Coping With Difficult Coaches


             

Volunteer coaches mean well, but they don't always do well. Here's how to handle the worst.


Most youth league coaches are kindhearted volunteers. These women and men try hard to make sports enjoyable and rewarding for kids. But some coaches can be dictatorial, disorganized, or sneaky. Concerned players and parents should watch out for difficult coaches as carefully as they watch for problem teachers. Here's a look at some of the most worrisome coaching types and how to deal with them.



THE DRILL SERGEANT
You've seen this one: He runs practices and games in a strict, no-nonsense fashion. He benches or chastises players for making a mistake. His philosophy seems to be "The only way to have fun in sports is to win -- all the time."


Children take their sports seriously enough without this kind of pressure. Under the Drill Sergeant, you are apt to play all season motivated by fear of losing or making a mistake. Good coaches say that the kids who are having fun on the field are the ones who win, not the other way around.


What to do: If you know before the season starts that you have a Drill Sergeant, try to move to another team right away. Don't wait; once team rosters are set, it's hard to make changes. Tell your parents to talk to the the league commissioner and let him or her know that you think it's best for you and your coach if you switch teams.


Coaches who act like drill sergeants can terrify you. If the coach is in charge of an elite team or you can't get a transfer, try getting your parents to talk with the coach in a non-confrontational way. If that doesn't help, try to adjust to the situation. Coaches are different-this coach especially so-and you shouldn't let the coach's harsh methods bother you. If you can't get the coach to act like a mature adult, maybe you can be the grown-up!


Most youth league coaches are kindhearted volunteers. These women and men try hard to make sports enjoyable and rewarding for kids. But some coaches can be dictatorial, disorganized, or sneaky. Concerned players and parents should watch out for difficult coaches as carefully as they watch for problem teachers. Here's a look at some of the most worrisome coaching types and how to deal with them.


THE APOLOGIST
This coach takes winning too seriously, but he knows better. Early on, he tells the team: "If I raise my voice during the game, please understand that I'm just yelling because of the excitement and because I want you to play well."


This disclaimer given, the Apologist feels he has carte blanche to berate umpires and to verbally abuse players during the game. Once the contest is over, the coach is all smiles and sweetness again. Meanwhile, you flinch at the thought of playing for this maniac.


What to do: Give the coach a chance. With your parents, explain in a quiet, private discussion, that you're concerned about his outbursts. Many coaches will change their ways when they realize someone is watching. If the coach says he can't control himself, try moving to another team.


THE KNOW-IT-ALL
As you might suspect, this is the coach who wants all the players to do everything precisely the way he says to. That can be a problem, especially if you want to try a different approach-say, a batting stance that feels more natural.


Most big league ballplayers will tell you that there are many different ways to hit a baseball. Some batters choke up. Some take long, looping swings. As long as it works, it's OK. There will be plenty of time in junior high and high school to hone techniques to perfection. At younger ages, it's much more important that kids just enjoy playing the game.


What to do: If you feel uncomfortable when a coach insists, "Hold the bat this way!" speak up and let the coach know that you want to try it your way. If you need to, get your parents to remind the coach that the individual style of holding a bat or dribbling a soccer ball really doesn't make much difference, as long as the fundamentals are there.


One parent relayed this story: "My daughter wanted to try switch- hitting when she was younger. One of the coaches told her she should swing right-handed only. I saw the disappointment in her face, so I asked the coach in a calm, direct manner, "What better time to learn how to switch-hit? Why discourage her now?" The coach got my point.


THE RULE-BENDER
Every community has one. This is the coach who looks for every loophole in the league rule book to make certain his team is the best. There's often some politicking or eligibility-rule bending to stack his team.


During games, the Rule-Bender might order his weaker hitters to try to get walks, instead of swinging away, or encourage his kids to heckle their rivals. This does happen.


What to do: Again, speak up. Find out how teams and players are selected before the league coaches and commissioner get together to go over rosters. If the season has already started, talk with your parents and send a letter to the commissioner, specifying the incidents.


THE LAID-BACK COACH
Believe it or not, the Laid-Back Coach may do more to take the fun out of your athletic experience than any other type of volunteer coach. Letting the team have fun is great, but being too casual is a problem. At the start of the season, he tells kids and parents that "all that matters to me is that everybody has fun." While that may sound promising-and good coaches live up to that promise - the Laid-Back Coach uses it as an excuse. He doesn't take time to organize practices ("Let's just scrimmage again, OK?") and routinely arrives late or misses practices and games. This coach doesn't really teach skills. He doesn't keep track of the players to make sure they all get to play different positions and get similar playing time.


Before long, you'll find your enthusiasm for the games and practices drooping. Why? The coach's lax attitude has given the team the message that they don't need to care either. D


What to do: See if you can get your parents or other knowledgeable adults to help. Have them tactfully tell the coach some of the things they think should be happening and why, and that they would be glad to assist in any way they can. Remember, the object is for you to learn skills and have a chance to enjoy using them.



Conclusion: Many times, a simple, calm conversation with the coach, either directly or through your parents, will help the situation greatly. If you are still stuck in a tough spot, remember to focus on what you can do to make it bearable. Every situation is a learning experience. Try to make the best of it by being cooperative with the coach and supportive of your teammates. The season will be over at some point, and you'll be able to look back and take pride in the way you handled it!