Sports Education

Spare a thought for the coach

After a lifetime of sports involvement, from pee wee to professional leagues, I’ve reached this conclusion: there are few jobs tougher than coaching kids.

Just consider a coach’s job description. They need to ensure each kid gets lots of playing time, individualised instruction, and has loads of fun. They have to organise practice sessions, competitive games and be prepared to reschedule everything when the weather turns bad. They have to meet the challenge of selecting line-ups which will make as many kids and parents as happy as possible while shaping their teams for competition. They have to conduct themselves at all times with restraint and maturity no matter what the officials do or who gets in their face. And of course they are expected to win most of their games.

Fortunately, the majority of coaches are aware of their multiple roles and goals. But occasionally, coaches being human will make mistakes and/or do things that annoy parents. But before you reach out to throttle your child’s coach, spare a moment to consider the following:

• The coach knows that every mother and father on the sidelines is watching every move their kid makes in the sports arena. And just about every parent expects their child to be acknowledged and celebrated as one of the stars on the team. In short, the coach must accommodate an entire team of ‘star’ players — a daunting task to say the least. Most parents can’t see past their own child, which undermines team building principles that are vital in sports. Don’t be such a parent. Empower, enable and encourage your children’s coach by taking a sympathetic view of his often contradictory objectives.

• Accept news you don’t want to hear about your child’s attitude towards games and sports and the coach. You may well discover that your little angel is anything but an angel when it comes to practice behaviour and team effort. Not a few children disregard instructions, are disrespectful and don’t enjoying playing. If your child’s coach says your kid is one such, give the coach a break. Learn to accept what he or she is saying just might be correct.

• If you have issues with the coach, don’t involve your child with them. Remember many a coach perceived as too tough and aggressive by parents has been much loved by his or her players. Too many young athletes are influenced by hearing cribbing parents who blame a coach for every loss or for their child’s failure to perform.

No wonder a growing number of coaches are beginning to ask: “What am I doing in this vocation?” And a large number of them are discovering the answer is to get out. Here are some of the reasons they advance for abandoning coaching as a career:

• Time constraints. These days, younger coaches are less inclined to make the long-term commitment required to reach the top rung of the profession and stay there. They burn out more quickly, become disillusioned and tend to leave the job to someone else.

• Economics. Coaching stipends may be extra income, but given that the amount children’s coaches earn is a pittance, it’s hardly suprising that they are disinclined to invest the time and patience the profession demands.

• People want immediate success. In athletics, and team sports and games, this attitude has trickled down from the pro to the collegiate and now school levels. It’s no longer enough for a coach to win consistently. They must also make it to the playoffs and win championships to be classified as successful. Today’s fans, boosters, administrators and parents don’t have patience with the process of building and rebuilding team programmes, despite the fact that this cycle is — and always has been — a prerequisite for sustainable success.

• Kids are different today. Each new generation of teens is distracted by new interests and opportunities, which limits the time they want to allot to sports activity and     excellence.

• Parents are more demanding than they used to be. Contemporary parents invest a lot of time and money in their children’s sports education and expect early payoffs such as a college scholarship or a lucrative professional contract.

Against this backdrop, parents, public and others should learn to appreciate that coaches make a huge commitment, often investing years of learning and studying their chosen game or sport and many lonely hours practicing it, in and out of season. Some of this may be motivated by ego, but most coaches take to sports education because they love their chosen sport, they love children and youth and want them to achieve and excel. So instead of being impatient and short-tempered with your child’s coach, it might be a better idea to give him/her a pat on the back for helping make your child a better player and a better person.

(Dr. George Selleck is a California-based sports psychologist, author and advisor to Sportz Village, Bangalore)