Tough Conversations

When I was a freshman in high school, my basketball team was small.  In fact, it was so small that we didn’t have a freshmen or JV team.  My coach was tough.  He had high expectations and conducted physically and mentally demanding practices.  I suited varsity, but only got in the last minute or two (if we were winning by enough).  Essentially, I only had the opportunity to play in practice.  However, I battled, knowing that next year could be my year.

The beginning of my sophomore year was different.  It was a huge disappointment for me.  I still found myself sitting on the bench, going in the last minute or so when my team was up big.  The basketball season is a grind, and I don’t care what anybody says, winter sports (basketball and wresting) are the most challenging.  The weather is cold, it gets dark at 4:30, it’s long, there are 3-4 games a week at times… it’s exhausting.  The weak will not survive, and at that time, I was weak.  I begged my parents to let me quit.

They didn’t say no, but they gave me a condition.  I could quit, IF I approached my coach and asked him about my role, and what I could do to get better.

Approach Coach P? To me, this was an absolute nightmare.  I didn’t sleep that night.  The entire school day, I didn’t hear a single word my teachers said, because I was so focused on how and when I would approach him.  I decided in math class that I would do it after practice that night.

Practice flew by.  It always seems like when you are dreading something, time races to the moment.  I took my practice shoes off, put on my sweats, and walked across the gym to what felt like my execution.

Coach was sitting in his office, already creating a scouting report for the next game.  I asked if I could talk to him, and as soon as I sat down, I started sobbing. I was thinking, “OHMYGOD OHMYGOD EMMA STOP CRYING,” but I couldn’t.  My disappointment and self-doubt all exploded into a disastrous ball of emotion.  So here I was, bawling in front of the man I feared most in this cold dark world… and I mean bawling, and do you know what he did?  Coach gave me a huge hug.

He let me talk (at least through my sobs), and then he let me listen.  He was honest.  He told me that I wasn’t ready.  I was too weak to be on the floor when it mattered the most, I didn’t work hard enough in the offseason, but he told me that I had potential, and asked me to stick with it.

I am honestly crying as I write this, thinking about how grateful I am for that moment with him, and for the guidance from my parents.  I finished the season, despite a lack of playing time, and worked hard that summer. The next year, I played in every single game.  I was awarded Honorable Mention All-Conference, and our team made it to the substate regional final, where I had 15 rebounds against IKM-Manning.

The following year, I was a senior captain and starter.  After the best athletic season I have ever participated in , my team made it to the first state tournament since the 1960s. I was again an All-Conference selection, and was invited to play at the Iowa All-Star Basketball game in Cedar Rapids.  My senior year laid the foundation for a 2010 team that would win its first state title.

What would have happened if my parents sent Coach P an email demanding to know why I wasn’t playing?  What would have happened if they let me quit without having a conversation with him?  My parents have taught me more things than I could ever count, but one of the most important things was to fight my own battles, and never give up.

They could have badmouthed my coach in the stands, wrote terrible things about him on social media, or encouraged me to quit.  I know this because as a coach, I get a lot of this every single season.  I have even had parents take a picture of me, and post it on facebook with some very nasty comments.  I have also had to ask my parents to escort me out of one of my games, because I had parents waiting to confront me in the lobby.  However, my parents didn’t make this about themselves; they made it about the relationship between my coach and me.

To this day, Coach P has been one of the most impacting people in my life.  Finding the courage to approach him, and having the ability to trust his honesty led me down one of the greatest paths in high school.  Now as a high school coach myself, basketball continues to be one of the biggest pieces of my life.

I urge all parents to encourage your children to fight their own battles.  Have your kids come talk to me, but also make sure they are open to my honesty.  I am not going to tell your child she deserves to play if she doesn’t.  Coach P did not lie to me.  He told me I wasn’t good enough to play yet, and I accepted that.  In fact, I felt that he respected me enough to be honest with me.  It motivated me, and I worked harder, until it paid off.

Advertisements

97 thoughts on “Tough Conversations

      1. Emma, great article! When I was reading it I thought I was Coach P. I think I’m probably the least liked in our town. But I love to coach. My message to my players is and always will be, you have to work hard to earn something whether it’s basketball or life. If you want something you have to work hard for it. Nothing is or should be handed to you.

        Like

    1. From a coaching clinic i attended several yrs ago the 24 hour rule no player coach parent conversation prior to that. I tried it and worked great after days and practices is not the best times to chat about playing times and over issues on the team!! Just throwing it out there👍

      Like

      1. Lori I really loved your comment and I don’t know if it just plain dumbness sometimes and more than likely which you probably already know there is more at play than what’s being told by that coach I will bet you there are thousand upon thousands of people in the same boat staying up all night trying to figure it out and it never gets figured out I feel for you and hope it gets better going through similar problems myself, glad you took up for your child because if you don’t nobody else will keep it up.

        Like

      2. Matt, not trying to be a smart alec, but I am just not sure what you said. Lack of punctuation makes your comment hard to understand.

        Like

      3. the beginning explains me at basketball. Thanks for who wrote this article. I am going to try and work harder than ever. This is very encouraging

        Like

    2. Great article. We had a different experience with our coach as he has been a friend who’s daughter played on my daughter’s club team. He became high school girls varsity coach and urged us to leave private school to come play for his high school. It was a tough decision but she had never been in a huge school
      Setting and her school didn’t have a competitive basketball team and we thought if she wanted to play at college level, moving her to public school would be her best shot. (Pun not intended 😂).
      As he was a friend, not a close one but someone we had a relationship with, we wanted to tread carefully. We didn’t want him to feel obligated to us just because our daughters played together for years and he was a huge fan of my daughter for all those years because of her aggressive style. We made it clear that he could put her on JV if he needed to, she just wanted to play. He insisted she was ready for varsity and would run circles around all the JV girls.
      Preseason came and went and she and the other freshmen on the team started strong and made their mark and proved they belonged on varsity. Many of the older girls on varsity respected them, some resented them. But they did their thing. The league games started and just like that, with zero reason or explanation, coach benched my daughter. He played the other freshmen, his daughter and another one who missed every single preseason game and practice because of softball. We thought maybe it was just one game and then came the next game, then the next and she’d get maybe two minutes of play to none. She asked him what she could do to get out their on the court. He told her to practice her shots more and do good in practice. She did and every night I picked her up from practice she said he told her she did good. But it never yielded her minutes on the court. We parents were heartbroken and blindsided but insisted she be the one to have all the conversations with him. I was tempted but I kept my mouth shut. It was torture mostly because he knew we transferred her for one reason and it wasn’t to warm a bench! It felt like a betrayal. It felt personal. And why no communication with her or us?
      She asked us to stop going to the games knowing it upset us each week. Plus she was humiliated and embarrassed and her confidence hit the ground. To make matters worse, the junior team captain was a bully and also, coaches favorite pet player, almost as much as his daughter. And she had already been giving my daughter a hard time and had it out for her since she fills in for her in post, and nicely too.
      So she sat on the bench pretty much every game, even the ones we were down 20 or up 20. She watched girls go in for her that did nothing but turn the ball over or miss shot after shot knowing she could do better but was powerless. She finally asked him why he wasn’t playing her. He told her she was a freshmen on varsity and he had to play the older girls. Except he played the other freshmen over the older girls no problem. So that didn’t fly. He told her not to worry she’d get much more play time sophomore year.
      The season passed and pretty soon spring season started. They played a couple tournaments and she was in all those games. Then summer games too, and she played a lot. But we were skeptical because he did that her freshman year too, only to bench her once the season started.
      Sophomore year began and I threw myself into fundraising with lots of high hopes for this season. Coach told me flat out that he blew it by letting two seniors back into the program who previously quit when they needed them most. He said although my daughter can play in any position, he really wants to work her into a guard. Because she’s been the only one strong enough on her travel team to play forward, she never really had a chance to play guard except for subbing in for them. The season began with tournaments and she was playing, just like the prior year. She had some great games. But then, in the last championship game of the tournament, she sat out. Oh no! Again? We made up all kinds of reasoning on the drive home to ease her fears. But he did it again. He brought up three more players from
      JV and played two of them while my daughter again, sat on the bench. It was happening again. No reasoning whatsoever. After the 3rd tournament she approached him and asked him what was going on. He told her he really needed more guards and she reminded him that he was supposed to work her into that role. He basically said he had no time to and she reminded him they had all summer. He gave her flimsy excuses and all but tied her hands to have any power to do anything to change her destiny as a player. To top it off, after telling players he wants them to approach him personally, not through parents, he called her out in the huddle after practice saying it’s annoying when they come ask about play time and he chooses who he chooses and that’s that. Oh and bonus, the bully team captain, pretty much nit picked and bad mouthed my daughter every minute she was able to make it on the court. He “generously” gave her 45 seconds before the half ended to make something happen while the others had all the time in the world to find their rhythm.
      So I emailed him and quit as fundraising chair telling him I had enough. He made a bunch more flimsy excuses and contradicted himself repeatedly but in the end, I told him he took a strong aggressive player who was coming into her outside shots and fearless on defense stopping girls much taller than her, stripping the balls, etc. and turned her into an uncertain, tentative player and it was flat out unfair how he treated her and strung her along and how disappointed we all were and how she wanted to quit,
      I never wanted it to go there and my daughter tried to work it out on her own, but sometimes coaches are just not fair and need to hear what we see. To his credit, he has started to play her more this season. She’s sticking it out to fulfill her PE requirement and still wants to quit but we are hoping we turned a corner here. I agree overall that parents need to stay out of it but in my case, we had a relationship that went back, were honest with him from the beginning and he knew what we sacrificed to get her there and he wasn’t honest or fair. I just wanted to add our experience. Thx

      Like

      1. Also, Scruffy, I moved my daughter to this school to get a better chance at getting into a college through basketball.

        Like

      2. Why didn’t she work on her own? I promise you, if she was good enough to be on the floor, she would be on the floor. There isn’t a coach on the planet who consistently sits a kid who should be playing.

        Like

      3. She did work on her own. Got a shooting coach and paid him for sessions to perfect her shot. She was one of the top players on the team over summer, scoring highest in several games plus consistent in other areas, trust me if it wasn’t her being good enough, we wouldn’t be scratching our heads. That’s what makes it so hard, she is as good as half the starters. Sometimes it’s political reasons too. So you’re wrong in our case.

        Like

      4. I enjoyed reading the original story above but especially your response. I’m in my 40’s now but can still remember playing for my high school basketball team my Freshman Year. Practices were rough but I enjoyed the game that I would push myself through each practice. I played in most of the games my Freshman Year on the Freshman team. Then came Sophomore Year & I was on JV team. Some coaches were the same & they New the type of player that I was. But there was a new JV coach who didn’t know us, only what we showed on the floor at practices. She was tough but I got through all the rugged practices. Games started & I wasn’t getting play time. Then game what we called “the game of the year” because once every year we would play our rival team. Game day & the new coach stated that she was going to play everyone. 2 more minutes left in the game & I was the only one not played! Even though we won the game, I went home so annoyed & upset. I spoke to my parents & they understood how I felt. Granted, I knew I’d never go on to play College ball but I put my heart & soul into high school ball. So I went into school the next day, and I spoke to another coach who also coached me my Freshman Year. We had a nice talk & he understood my decision. I never thought I’d quit but I did. I still remember him saying to me what a good player I was & student (he was also one of my teachers). He also told me that I am always welcome back to the team!! I don’t regret my decision. But I do think the new coach was very political in who she played & was all about the win instead of teaching us that we may not always win but as long as we give it our all & play as a team that is most important.

        Like

      5. That stinks! The same thing happened to my son in baseball. He turned out to be the only one who continued to play thru high school college and eventually went pro. It turned out that in high school we played this coaches team. I told my son if he ever hit a Homerun it better be now! He did!! That coach had the nerve to tell all his kids and parents that “he” taught him everything he (my son) knew. Whatever!! Sometimes revenge is the best. But to the lady further down who said no coach would let a good kid sit. She’s in LaLa land or crazy if she thinks that’s not true!!

        Like

      6. the fact that you lack in boundaries to the point where you find it appropriate to post an essay as a comment on an article tells the world a lot about you and the type of boundaries you model for your child. of course you got involved and pulled a passive aggressive move like resigning from fundraising. i would expect nothing less after the rest of your rambling story. your story doesn’t add up. you’ve missed the point of the article but i doubt you’ll ever step outside of yourself long enough to really sit back and let the point actually sink in.

        Like

      7. Actually I didn’t because this school is actually really good. Both schools were. This school had better basketball opportunity. Thanks for your ignorant judgment though 😒

        Like

      8. As a parent of a coach that had pretty much the same experience as you I would say that you nailed the subject. Today’s students are too quick to quit. Once our daughter was removed from the tvarsity team for no reason or explanation. She was told that she couldn’t play on any team, even though there was a JV team. We had never let her quit anything, but the coach forced her to leave. We never talked to the coach but our daughter was just told she wasn’t on the team. We allowed her to join a AAU swimming team which she was on the team for a year. That year off taught her the importance of competing against yourself and helped her build self esteem, she wasn’t the fastest swimmer but she beat her time at most meets. The following year the old coach had moved to greener pastures. Our daughter tried out for the team and played as a starter for the next three years.

        I can tell by the response from Bev that she has spent way too many nights grading English papers and never a day coaching a student. Th English majors like Bevneed to get a life somewhere else and quit reading about sports.

        Like

      9. Lori I know exactly the pain you’re describing. I sat through two years of the same nonsense with my daughter. Emma, I love what you have to say here but not every coach is honest or treats kids with dignity. My daughter was punished in her primary sport because I stood up for her coach in one of her secondary sports who was being bullied by parents. On a varsity team with 14 players, my daughter played in just four games as a senior. She worked on her game constantly. She played year-round on a travel team, attended extra training sessions all year long. She was never late to HS practice, never mouthed off to the coach, and always supported her teammates. She asked the coach what she had to do to earn playing time and the coach’s response was to laugh and say, “I love the enthusiasm.” Thank God for her travel coach. She is getting the last laugh: all-conference and all-America honors and started every game as a freshman at her college.
        beepboop, you’re probably one of those parents who sits in the stands trashing evey kid except your own instead of remembering that it’s a team sport

        Like

      10. Karen, I totally agree. I am not blind to bad coaches, AND I have made some mistakes that keep me up at night! I had a great coach, and feel so blessed, but I understand there have been some bad situations out there. Thanks for sharing.

        Like

      11. This same crap happened to our son his senior year…I have no doubt it was fueled by the political structure that existed in this school. Our son was so frustrated…it was widely known that another coaches son wanted to be the high score shooter…so no matter what all balls were to go to this shooter, so many games were lost because of this personal goal. It was disgusting to watch! When my husband watched our son get a short bit of play time make a 3 point and then a lay up, only to be publicly yelled at for shooting the ball and benched the rest of the game, we gave our permission for him to quit the team. The coach was no coach!!

        Like

      12. You are the typical sports parent thinking your child will play in college, get a scholarship, become a professional athlete, etc. I teach in an upper-middle class high school and see parents like you all of the time. Forcing their children to be on 3 teams, paying for special coaches, disrupting your daughter’s education for the sake to play at a bigger school in the small chance she’ll play D1. Most of the students I taught were talented but so burnt out or kept getting crazy injuries that in the past only professionals got because they used the same muscle groups over and over.
        And many of them and their parents felt entitled for play time, etc. I am certain you were not always giving the benefit of the doubt nor were you positive. Your daughter more than likely picked up quite an attitude with her coach just from absorbing your anger over play time. 99% of high school athletes never play D1, and there is nothing wrong with that. They enjoy high school sports and get exercise. Instead of teaching her a life lesson, you were so bent on her playing and you being right because you pulled her out of her school and you wanted that to be justified. Sometimes you work really hard and you still don’t get the promotion. Sometimes talent doesn’t take you far even though you feel it should. It’s how you react to that, with grace and dignity. It’s the type of person you are. You could have taught her a valuable life lesson. You completely missed the point of the post.

        Like

      13. Tracy – You missed my points that I wonder if you and a few others even read my post or did you just skim through it? It leaves me regretting I posted our experience. I intended to point out that on the flip side, some of us parents try to work their kids through the tough bench time and unfair politics but some coaches will never give them a chance and aren’t honest and they don’t realize what they do to these players. Us parents can only encourage them so much but they really want coach’s approval and to be part of the team.
        I never ever said my daughter was entitled to play time, or that she’d go to a D1 college, or that we pushed her, or that I forced her to go to a special coach (she wanted to get extra practice with the boys asst. coach who offered special clinics), never disrupted her education or ever PULLED her out of any school for that -she already graduated middle school and was going INTO high school and we just changed the school she was going to go to once we weighed all the pros and cons of the education and basketball was the tipping scale. It was HER decision in the end and she wanted to go here specifically to play for this coach who we had a prior relationship with and who made promises to her on her role on the team. He wasn’t honest and he turned out to be really bad and that sometimes athletes can’t do much to change their chances if they get a coach like him. I agreed with the points about parents staying out of it. We pretty much made my daughter fight her own battles on this in spite of our relationship with him for years on club teams. She did and he wasn’t honest with her, changed his stories, and left her powerless to forge her own path to play. My role on the booster club and me stepping down (partially because I don’t support him but other reasons too) that gave me an opening to tell him how discouraged we were that things turned out this way since he brought it up as I was resigning. Had we not had prior conversations or any relationship before, this would have been far less of an issue. You presume I wasn’t positive or giving him the benefit of the doubt but you don’t know me at all, and you clearly read more into my post than was even there. Maybe you brushed through it cause it was long (I’m guilty of being too wordy – my bad) but you missed my points . My daughter is still on the team, but she’s miserable as any athlete would be sitting on a bench. She wants to quit and the team is just not fun because 8 out of the 11 players on the team are miserable with him or each other. Most of it has to do with his defending his team captain and turning everyone away who complains to him about her. I was venting here on our experience. A few of you didn’t get it and made up assumptions about me. I’m done explaining myself.

        Like

      14. Karen thanks for understanding my points. I meant to say we transferred to another school district for bball so I see the grief I’m getting for that (I wasn’t clear that we left the k-12 private school she was at once she was ready to go to high school- i see I used transfer instead of change) anyway thanks for being one who still got my points and let me vent without putting words in my mouth or passing judgment ❤ life’s not fair and we just want our kids to do well but in spite of their best efforts to fight through, sometimes coaches don’t understand themselves how their role can either inspire greatness or not. There are lots of lessons we can all learn, not just parents, or athletes.

        Like

      15. Kraut- yes at some point – after exhausting all avenues, you throw a white flag up and give up. That’s where we were at. Our prior relationship to the coach and me leaving booster club, and my daughter approaching him several times to no avail made it more natural to address my issues (Otherwise we would all just be bummed but not feel as blindsided) but her coach is not well liked, volunteer parents were dropping like flies (that’s why I stepped in cause I felt bad, but in spite of how he handled things, I jumped in to try to make the program successful and still work under the radar to do it for the girls, not him) and he basically isn’t approachable and exasperates the girls and plays faves, gives too much power to his pet players who are untouchable and the rest of the team knows it, talks behind players backs to other players, other parents to other parents, confuses the girls with rules that change each week, humiliates them in huddles, etc. bottom line is, some coaches aren’t good leaders and they may have a plan and that’s their right as coach but as much as we feel parents need to let their kids fight their own battles and encourage them to do so, that doesn’t change the fact that some coaches tear players down and could learn as well.

        Like

      16. Thank you for this. We are experiencing something similar to this. My daughter talking to the coach all with excuses no reasons and starting a freshman over her (junior) who scores zero points a game. It’s so heartbreaking to watch your child work so hard for something and expect to be rewarded for that and just knocked down every chance they get.

        Like

    3. I am a former basketball player, married to a college basketball coach, and mom to a 6-year old that already loves the game! I loved this article! Everyone needs to read it!

      Like

      1. Scruffy I didn’t miss the point. I did get wordy though. I was sharing our experience on the flip side. I agreed with the article but was pointing out that certain coaches make things pretty bad for some players. I didn’t quit fundraising passive aggressive at all. I told him exactly why. He knows. I don’t need to defend my character or parenting to a stranger who decided to judge and attack me for sharing an experience. That says more about you. I’m done

        Like

  1. Thank you for this! My husband is a coach and I am always amazed at the stories he tells of parents and their involvement/interference in their children’s sports life (and probably the rest of their lives, well.) My parents would not fight my battles or address my issues with teachers or coaches. I would have been mortified if they had. I went to high school with your dad and I know him to be good, good man. We were raised during times when we were responsible to our parents, our teachers and our coaches. Allowing children to take responsibility for their actions makes for a much easier transition into college and the world beyond. Keep the faith!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading Tami! Thank you for your insight, and yes, parents do not know the valuable lesson they are taking away from their kids by over-involving themselves. High schoolers are young adults, and need to learn the skill of communicating with authority figures.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well said Emma! I have coached for 16 years and it has gotten worse. And the saddest part is a lot of the athletes don’t know their parents call or contact the coaches. Usually stops at let’s meet with your daughter and you so we can discuss this situation. So sad! Life lessons go along with sports and those athletes aren’t going to learn from it if their parents are getting overly involved. Be parents and support not live through your child or make them hate the sport or coaches.

        Like

  2. I love this article and while as a coach I believe all of us can better the ones who need to understand are parents! Kids are not entitled you have to work for everything you do! My dad told me the same thing I told my kids if you aren’t playing work harder! I appreciate everything you do Emma thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. LOVE THIS!!! Thank you for having the courage to post this. I had a very similar experience in Little League baseball. Parents told me if I wanted to find out why I wasn’t playing more “I” needed to ask the coach. Too many coaches are “chased out” of the profession because of parents. Keep up the good fight! Miss seeing you guys every day!
    E-

    Like

  4. A must read for all parents today. Thank you for sharing. I hope you hang in there as a coach now, too, just like you had to as a player.

    Like

  5. Wow-what a great article! You have great parents and they guided you into a decision that helped shape you as a person and a coach. I remember the hard work you put into your game. Keep up the good work! Now it’s your turn to help shape a young athlete’s life!

    Like

  6. Yes! All of this yes!! This should be required reading for ALL high school athletes. And parents! We teach our children best when WE let THEM ask questions and learn from the honest responses.

    Like

  7. Absolutely spot on! As an Exira grad from “back in the day” who was a coach and is now a high school Dean of Students, truer words could not be spoken. No one is entitled to anything, other than the opportunity to work hard and the chance to do their best. Please keep up the great work you are doing!

    Like

  8. Loved that you shared this. I used to coach, a lifetime ago. I thought I was tough and could handle the criticism…well, the criticism I could take. It was the outright lies that some parents hammered at me that finally got me to say “it just isn’t worth it.” The kids, they are more than worth it, but when parents fight you and put the kids in the middle, yeah, time to walk away. So glad that your parents had the wisdom to direct you, and I hope you can keep fighting, keep coaching, keep being for the kids.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Emma, thanks for sharing. This is exactly what my parents told me to do as well. As a coach, I start off every season, telling my athletes to do the best to explain why I make the decisions I do and if it’s not clear enough or they want to know what more they can do, they need to come ask me first. Decisions as a coach aren’t easy, people don’t know how these decisions way on our minds 24/7, keeping us awake at night, distracting us from our daily duties. Keep up the good work. I’ve done this for 16 years, the positives outweigh the negatives. Good luck with your season!

    Like

    1. Thank you Travis. I LOVE how you mentioned staying awake at night thinking about decisions. I don’t think parents understand that it hurts us to hurt their child. It is our job to make these tough decisions.

      Like

  10. Emma,
    Thank you so much for your post. Having been on small town teams just down the road from you, Walnut, I too appreciate all the lessons I learned about hard work and team work from the coaches. And while it was my sisters who excelled at basketball, it was riding the bench that pushed me to find my own way and strengths.
    All my best to you and in your future,
    Valorie

    Like

  11. Great Article. One of the huge advantages of the small schools is the opportunity to work with players and help them develop over the years. Often at the big schools then numbers do not allow this and players that could have turned into something special, even for a senior year, are cut freshmen or sophomore year. I was lucky enough to Coach at Exira a few decades ago and it was a wonderful experience. While our records might not have set any records I was able to work with an incredible group of young ladies. As we have kept in touch a little with Facebook I now see that they have become wonderful Adults and parents. They are successful in their lives and I hope have a few fond memories of their times on the court, during practice and games. I have many pictures and memories and pictures that remind me that I was lucky to coach back then. I had open and honest parents to work with and players that worked hard and wanted to be a part of something, not just score points.
    Now I see that Exira is with Elkhorn Kimballton. Look around at the other parents that are that core that makes Exira the special place it is in the state of Iowa. Be proud of what you did and remember stopping off to see the Coach’s brand new baby girl at the hospital on the way home from a game. Parents and players remember that as scary as it might seem for you to talk to the coach or as hard as it might be to hear the answer to your questions, there is the other side for the coach. The endless hours, in season and out, spent thinking about how to get better themselves to deserve the honor that it is to be a coach. The sleepless nights worrying about not just how to run a better offense, but also how this player is doing in class or that player is doing at home. As a coach of young ladies I always thought of you as my surrogate daughters and now with my own 2 daughters having gone through High School sports I know I was right. Many of my Best Friends are players from the past that got it. Enjoy all of the experience now because it does go by a lot faster than we might think. Sorry for going on but hopefully you all, players and present and future coaches will see. This is about real life and it does make a huge impact on all involved on both sides of the whistle.
    I will end with thanking Holly for sharing this blog. You and all your teammates are what will always make me remember Exira with a SMILE!
    V

    Like

  12. Thank you for writing about this! Although my oldest child is in 4th grade, I coached her and 21 other 4th graders in their 1st year of volleyball. I was approached by one parent via Facebook group message after the season was complete and basically had some nasty comments thrown at me about why her child was on the “c” team and it’s not fair, and so on. I encouraged all the girls to keep practicing during the off season and attend camps. I had a very good high school athletic experience (winning 3 state titles in both vball and bball) here in Nebraska and I too, had doubts when it would be “my turn” but never gave up and in the end, have very fond memories. My coaches and parents were amazing and always pushed me to be a better player and person. Keep up the good work!!!

    Like

  13. Thank you for sharing this story! As a coach and former athlete, I appreciate the points you made here on fighting your own battles. Far too often, parents come in demanding their child gets more playing time. They are, in turn, sending their child a very bad message. When your child gets a job, will you come in to talk to their boss when things aren’t going their way too? Life is tough. It is the duty of the parent to prepare them for that.

    Like

  14. Great article. I agree kids do need to learn to communicate. This only works if the coach is approachable. We have experienced where coaches do not want the kids to question them. Also-coaches should be mentoring and coaching the kids so there shouldn’t be a question of expectations. The coach should set clear expectations and have them for everyone. I feel that it’s a 2 way street

    Like

    1. I loved this article! In this day and age I am wondering if you feel there could be some immature coaches out there though and sending a very young individual into what could become a bullying situation? Or into the Lions den so to speak. I guess my overall concern would be the “millenial” in a power position whom they themselves have had their parents take care of everything. Thoughts? Thanks

      Like

      1. Such an interesting thought! I thank God that I was exposed to great coaches who were incredibly professional and did not bully me. However, I know they exist. If the issue cannot be resolved by the coach and player, then it is more than appropriate for a parent to meet with the athletic director and coach for an explanation.

        Like

  15. I agree with all of your points in the article and it works well as long as the coach is approachable and humanistically treating the players. At what point do you feel it is the parents’ spot to step in? When their kid is told they suck time and time again? When the coach calls them a worthless piece of crap because scoring 20 points isn’t enough? Unfortunately, there are many coaches going about things the wrong way and some of us are tired of picking up the broken pieces of our kids.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great points Sue! There are definitely times when it is more than appropriate for a parent to step in. What you described here is so inappropriate, and I’m sorry your child is going through that. I would NEVER call my players a piece of crap, or anything of the sort. My players are family to me, and I cringe thinking about hurting them in this way. My assistant coach and I do not allow cussing, name calling, or any negative behavior in our practices or games. If it is an issue outside of playing time, or asking for improvements, I think that it is more than acceptable to contact the coach and ask him/her about this behavior.

      Like

  16. This is a fantastic article. I’ve coached middle school girls basketball for years and have been an athletic director for four years now. This is authentic, genuine, and real. I’ve had many difficult conversations with players and parents over the years. It never seems to get easier. It is so vitally important to be honest, up-front, consistent and approachable. I am a strict coach and demand a lot from my players. I have, I’m sure, seeemed unapproachable at times to my 12-14 year old girls. These kinds of conversations, however, if and when they allow themselves to happen, are so powerful and the most meaningful kind of connection you could have with your student-athlete.

    Like

  17. Emma, very well put. I have coached or taught a coaching class for 36yrs. I have never stress winning only giving your all. This is for the players as well as my coaching staff . Unfortunately both of these groups only are now thinking about their future and not about Thierry life and what hard work is about. I have coached over 30 major league baseball players. We had a lot of talks on what they need to improve on. The ones that did they got better and made, the ones that didn’t came up short. There is always a time and place for improvement. I was always open for a conversation at any time and listen to them. You have to have tough skin today to be a coach, since a lot of people think they know more than you.

    Like

  18. Wow – not only are you a great athlete, but also an excellent writer. This reminded me of a similar experience. I coached 7th graders in softball. I couldn’t make it to try-outs so I ended up with all of the players that no one else wanted. We focused on the fundamentals and at times during the game I would make the player who led with the wrong foot when throwing the ball stop and do it right. Or the player who ran with the ball was sent back to throw the ball. We all said “we don’t run with the ball.” This was tough. I had some parents yelling at me and wanting to move their child to another team, but in the end – we won the championship! Good for you for what you are doing, what you have accomplished and for future accomplishments!

    Like

  19. Great post…especially since we’re at the beginning of our BB season and DD is a little discouraged already.
    The only time I’ve ever stepped in was during one game…the other team was viscous and the refs were letting them get away with it. My DD was getting hammered to the point that she was crying on the floor and I was afraid she was going to take someone out. The other team was well-schooled and most of their antics happened away from the bench so I wasn’t completely sure the coach was able to see what was going on, so I approached her and just inquired if she saw that my DD was crying and reaching a breaking point…she assured me she saw. Well, coach nearly got thrown out of that game because she really went to bat for our girls…we ended up with 3 concussions and several other banged up girls. I’m not sure why the refs let a 7th grade game get so intensely physical, but they learned that coach had their backs.

    Like

  20. Such a good read! I was in this predicament, only the coach used social status and what your last name as a right to play. I however was not a social butterfly nor did I have the right last name. So I gave up and quit-along side my best friend for the same reasons. Our hardwork wasn’t going to get us anywhere because of something we couldn’t change, who our parents are and how much money they made. My love for sports certainly didn’t change. The college I chose to attend brought back basketball my senior year in high school, while I thought it was cool, I figured I didn’t stand a chance. Who plays basketball in college and not high school? Well. After moving on campus and making a few friends we were shooting around in the gym and the Dean of Students saw my ability/hidden talent and told me try-outs were coming up and he expected me to do it. I told him my story and he still said it’s worth a shot. So for that next week I tried to get as much rust off as I could and tried out….and made the team! Not only did I make the team, I earned my spot as a starter halfway through the season. It felt so good to redeem myself in a place where my parents’ occupations and my last name didn’t matter (except when the announcer couldn’t pronounce my hometown nor last name right). After I became a starter a few friends ran into that coach and mentioned what I was up to and the coach wasn’t a big enough person to acknowledge the accomplishment. That should say something in itself as to what kind of person that coach is.
    Parents need to step back when it comes to their kids playing sports. Trust me, I totally understand wanting the best for your children, but paying their way into stardom will not get them anywhere. They need to put in the work and see it pay off. Never once would I have ever wanted my mom or dad approach the coach, they saw what was happening to me, along with other parents that were family friends.
    The college team didn’t have a winning record to brag about, but the journey to that point in my life and sense of redemption certainly is.

    Like

  21. TOUGH CONVERSATIONS
    Those coaches who contradict themselves with athletes and parents, taking both for granted, pretending to be apostles of the positive coaching alliance cast a very ugly and lasting shadow on their sport.

    Having been repeatedly exposed to the Positive Coaching Alliance by our Athletic Director over the past few years it is surprising that coaches who are incapable of the “tough conversation” are still permitted. One particular coach has proven time and again with his actions and his words that it is not about the student athlete, it is in fact all about him. As a result he is not respected or trusted by the athletes or their families, however the students and families pretend to like him as he is, “the coach”. He is more into big hugs , high fives, and twitter posts than teaching or coaching yet the AD, Principal, and Administrators seem powerless to make changes.

    Driving the “Tough Conversation” ownership message and lesson with my own children, I could only offer suggestions as to how approach the man they had known for many years. When they did they were confronted with platitudes and contradictions, what in my own mind I would call BS.

    Much to my delight and pride the young athlete owned the relationship and made it their responsibility to have the “tough conversation” with the coach. In spite of a long term friendship and familiarity it was not easy or trivial for him to approach the coach with what was becoming a difficult choice. In fact it was a very sad day when he spoke with the coach about trying a competing fall sport in the coming year only to be ridiculed and laughed at. This “adult, educator, and highly licensed coach” had a wonderful opportunity to positively coach this athlete he had known for many years responded instead like a selfish 5 year old who had been told that he was no longer the favored playmate. Going as far as to mock the basic ability of the athlete who had proven to have all the potential this coach could hope for the coach crushed the athlete’s love for a sport he had played since learning to walk and run.

    To this day when in social circles the coach pretends to be a friend, only to look like a foolish, self-centered, child who continually needs a hug in the spot light. While it is unfortunate that I will not get to see my son play a sport he grew up with I am immensely proud of his owning the relationship and ability to have the tough conversation.

    Like

    1. I love this story, how honest and sensitive your coach was, and that the communication and openness went both directions. I think it’s a much harder story, though, when the ending isn’t so exciting, and as a former player (starter in high school, end of the bench in college) and coach, I would add this encouragement to whoever’s reading: There are many who sit the bench all 4 years. They work just as hard as the other players, and they even have difficult, honest, and open conversations with coaches whom they trust and respect. But for one reason or another – injuries, not as naturally skilled, emotional instability, etc. – they don’t get to play much even for all their hard work. These conversations are more difficult as the years progress, but it’s not the potential for long-term “success” that makes those conversations valuable. Rather, it’s the lifelong learning of how to keep giving your all when you don’t get lots of credit or attention or for it, how to interact with others lovingly even when the conversations don’t result in changed circumstances, how to decide what you really love and what you’re willing to sacrifice. Thanks for the post and the responses! Good discussion. 🙂

      Like

      1. I think it becomes even more complicated when it’s a travel team and parents are paying gobs of money and giving up tons of time to participate. After encouraging our kids to practice more, work harder and approach their coach about what they need to improve on, and there is no positive change…what then?

        At what point do you say, enough is enough! The time and financial sacrifice to our family is not worth the payout (play time).
        And what message does that send to our kids? When we say we can’t keep giving up weekends and paying hundreds (thousands!) of dollars to watch you sit on the bench. How do we tell our kids that we can’t keep paying for a team they aren’t good enough to play on?

        The kinder thing to do would be for coaches to not take on players that aren’t good enough to play. I would rather my child not make the team at all then be put in that position as a parent. Of course, the more bench warmers you have, the more cash flow a team has for the “real” players. So there’s that.

        Like

      2. Oh wow! I have no experience with travel teams. My parents were very against them. I was a 4 sport athlete at my school, so I didn’t participate in club. That is a tough sutuation

        Like

      3. Very well said! That is where we are right now. On a travel team. this is the first year and im already regretting the time and money spent. The sad part is the team as whole isn’t great…they are good. So the coach picks favorites.
        My thought is if they weren’t good enough why did you pick them to begin with? Definitely makes me question the intent…is it the money?

        Like

  22. Nicely written! I am curious what you would suggest as sort of a template for a student to approach a coach? Things to say/not say, etc. As a parent it would be nice to be able to “coach” a child so he or feels more confident/ prepped for the talk.
    Thank you!

    Like

    1. It will all depend on the personality of the coach. I am what I would call a “softy.” However, the one thing I am not soft about is playing time. I do not believe in equal playing time, or starting seniors just because they are seniors. Most of my conversations with players are about playing time. I really encourage my girls to come talk to me, and my assistant for clarification on their playing time, etc. If a girl were going to approach me, this is what I would suggest.
      1. Ask the coach if it is a good time to talk IN PERSON. I have had so many girls text me about playing time. That is not the way to handle it, and frankly irritates me. Once the player decided to approach her coach, make sure it is not right after a game. After practice, before practice, or another time is best.
      2. Have reasons why you think you should be playing prepared. If there are stats existing that show you are a better option to start, have those ready, and ask the coach to explain.
      3. Don’t say, “I never get a chance in games.” Each day, athletes get a chance. In fact, one of my seniors, Bailey, began to perform so well in practice, I had NO option but to start her. She began the season not entering the game, and ended a starter, ALL because of how hard she worked and competed in practice. The girl who lost her spot did not compete as hard as her! So, if a kid thinks that she has been outperforming others in practice, she needs to bring that up. Sometimes, coaches can get stubborn, and don’t want to try something new, so maybe asking about practice performance will encourage that coach to make a change.
      4. Avoid blaming others, or bringing up anything negative about teammates. The meeting should really be focused on you, the player.
      5. Understand that there is no reason to be afraid. I was so scared when I did this, and even though I didn’t hear what I wanted to hear, it brought me closer to my coach, and taught me a great lesson. If a player approaches a coach, and she/he is rude, unprofessional, degrading… then that is simply a bad communicator/possibly coach. It is our job to work with our girls, teach them life lessons, and give them an explanation!
      5. Ask for extra help. I consider myself so lucky because while other coaches have to beg their kids to get in the gym… I cannot get rid of mine haha! If one of my girls feels that she is not preforming well, she often asks me to stay after practice, or meet on the weekend to work on form. I am MORE THAN HAPPY to do this, and impressed by the extra effort.

      I hope this helped a little! I wrote this pretty quickly, so let me know if you need clarification, or if there are any more questions.

      Like

  23. I completely agree with what you stated about your parents and your coach. I too am a coach (20 years) and player, and I went through very much the same things. I do disagree with the winter sports being the toughest. All sports are tough, no matter the season.

    Like

  24. Absolutely THIS! Our daughter is about to be in Jr High sports and although she is above average in athletic ability, she is going to have to WORK in order to be a consistent starter. It’s up to her, not us!

    Like

  25. I have been coaching youth sports for a number of years, and, for the most part, I have found that parents have been very supportive and understanding: I have had occasion (twice last year) whereby parental interference reared its ugly head: What parents do not understand is that, when they interfere, they do their children a major dis-service. I am coaching because I believe our youths need to understand the huge positives that sport provides them that will benefit them later in life. One of those positives is gaining an understanding of your role & supporting your teammates, even if your role seems small. Every member of a team has a role & should perform that role to their fullest effort. Anything less cheats the kid & no-one else. As this article suggests, perhaps the best lesson to be learned is that you stand up for yourself, you respect authority, and you heed the advice you are given in order to be successful. How many articles have you read whereby youth was successful because mommy did my dirty work for me ?

    Like

  26. As a HS AD – one of the best post I have read. In today’s day and age – honesty and the ability to listen to it – are a lost trait. I can’t tell you how many encounters you come across as described. In the past there was a respect for the coach, all too often it is overlooked bc of the situation and how the parent feels today. Quite frankly it is more upsetting to the parent then the kid. Asking student athletes to become young adults and learn how to fight for their spot is part of growing up. We ask that our student athletes speak to the coach first, then if it doesn’t go as planned, we welcome parental involvement – but only after step 1. Does this happen all the time – of course not – but we try and will continue to do so. It is part of our job as educators and coaches. Great story and thanks for sharing. I plan to share with our community

    Liked by 1 person

  27. I love this article.. Thank you!! One question what if youy teach your child to do this to take responsibility.. to talk to their coach and she does. We had our daughter do this.. and it was good for the next couple games but now she is back to square one. Says he will put her out there and doesn’t.. plays all the sophomores..or juniors and she is a senior who puts her heart into it more than some of the other kids.. and he plays the other kids that think they are the stars and can play their own ball..not even the ball the coach is coaching but he still puts them out there. She has had a different coach each year.. this new one is not consistent. We try not to say anything to our kids but encourage.. So what do I tell my daughter who is so angry at this point, we keep trying to encourage her.. but she feels like it is so hard to chat with him now she doesn’t want to be the nagging kid but she doesn’t understand what he is doing. And the community as well is not sure why our daughter isn’t playing, he even put our junior down on Jv cause she just had.. hip surgery and was at the tale end of recovery and her confidence level was low….but she is getting more playing time.. and her confidence is so much better but we can tell she is a varsity player but we are ok and encourage.. that she has another year. we don’t want to do anything that will hurt our other two girls coming up who love basket ball too.. I have a difficult time.. when coaches have favorites and become buddy buddy with some of the kids and other kids feel excluded what do you do here.

    Like

  28. Yes, yes, yes! Kids HAVE to fight their own battles! Problem-solving is a learned behavior. If they never learn it, they never DO it!

    My daughter had some issues in high school. I talked to her at home about how to take care of the problem, then sent her to DO it. I told her she could tag me in if necessary, so she knew I was behind her. But she never did. She handled it all, even if she came home upset later.

    Her first semester of college, buying books was a nightmare. She had to stand in long lines multiple times, but her card still wouldn’t work. So she shrugged it off. Instead of demanding me to drive several hours to fix it for her, she found another place to buy her books that WOULD accept her card. It was a used bookstore, so she ended up saving hundreds. The most important thing to me, though, was that she had the confidence to solve her own problem, and she did it cheerfully.

    Like

  29. Lovely message that goes beyond basketball and even sports to the rest of education… let kids fight their own battles and build their own relationships. Even if that conversation with the Coach had ended badly (or rather the reaction to the honest weren’t as positive or hadn’t resulted in success because let’s face it in any competitive sport there can only be one winner in a game) it would still be a better life lesson. Win or lose, the problem-solving and emotional skills are far better…

    Thanks for your blog!

    Like

  30. This was a great post Emma, and being a basketball coach, it is difficult for young people to understand their role in their playing time. I am old school and I never talk to parents about it and instead suggest that their child come to me and I will discuss it with them. It is true that there is a huge sense of entitlement among kids today and in my opinion it stretches to parents. I coach middle school (17years) and I get dragged into many meetings with our principal and AD about playing time. I listen and give the same response, “tell your child to come see me and we will discuss it” and equate it to real life, if you are working for a company and think you deserve a raise often a person will talk to their boss about getting one, isn’t that what we are really supposed to be doing as coaches, preparing kids for real life?
    Make no mistake there are bad coaches out there but they are outnumbered by good ones. Our profession is slowly being brought down by petulant parents who pay these trainers to tell them their kids are great players (and some might be) and that fuels the thought that their kid should be above the coach and his/her program. I train kids all the time and I don’t charge a dime and I am honest with them about their weaknesses as well as their strengths. I am glad that Emma had parents who let her figure things out for herself and did not interfere. More parents really need to empower their children take charge and embrace difficulty and adversity and not intercede because things might not be going their way “all the time” For those who have had bad experiences with coaches I hate that it happened to your family.

    Like

  31. After my Junior year of HS football, I tried to join an off season sport and was told by my coach, that if I did, then I would no longer have a starting position on the football team my senior year. Even after I said I would come in at 5:00 AM everyday for off season training. I was an impressionable kid who was blackmailed and made to feel scared. I am a coach and as much as I like to win, I would rather develop great kids that are well rounded and successful in their choices.

    Like

    1. Oh absolutely. I was a four-sport athlete, and encourage all of my kids to represent our school by being in multiple sports. I am not impressed by kids who specialize.

      Like

  32. Just read this article on forevermom. I would love to make it required reading for every team parent and every player participating in highschool or club sports. Helicopter parenting is damaging to our kids, our children are being infantilized through adulthood. I see it on the field and in the office. Immediate gratification guides these kids and their families to their detriment. Your experience mirrors thousand of others demonstrating examples of sacrifice and hard work which lead to success, emotional and financial in life. Thank you for opening up to your readers, thank you for being a positive role model.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s