Helping Teens Deal With Bad Coaches

By Kristine Tucker
Parents can hold bad coaches accountable for their actions.
Parents can hold bad coaches accountable for their actions.

When your teenager has to deal with a bad coach, be the voice of reason, especially if your teen wants to quit the sport. Bad coaches might yell at players, communicate with a mean tone, use bullying to intimidate players, abuse their authority, bench players unnecessarily or show favoritism. You don't want your teenager to dislike or quit playing a sport just because the coach has a bad attitude or poor coaching skills.

Be a Good Listener

Teenagers like to vent their frustrations. As a parent, you can listen to your child's complaints about her coach and empathize. You might say, "I hear what you're saying. I'm sorry your coach didn't treat you kindly." Or, "I agree with you. I've noticed your coach loses his temper." By recognizing and validating your teen's feelings, she might decide she can tolerate the coach because she knows you're behind her.

Meet With the Coach

According to a 2012 article at the Washington Post's online sports section, parents might need to join their teens and schedule a meeting with the coach, if the coach's behavior is unacceptable. Parents and players should address the coach's unfair coaching techniques or harsh language, without name-calling or blaming the coach for her actions. Let the coach know that as parents you expect her to be a positive role model. You might say, "When you yell at the players, it negatively affects their self-confidence." Or, "When you only play and practice with the best players, other athletes don't get the opportunity to improve." Meeting with a coach gives her the opportunity to explain her coaching behavior. More importantly, it shows your teen that you care and take the situation seriously.

Attend Practices and Games

Sometimes a parent's presence at practices or games helps keep a volatile or unfair coach in line. Even though coaches have the authority to manage the team, parents, by their mere presence, have a strong influence on whether the coach is respectful and effective. By attending practices and watching the coach interact with players, you gain an eyewitness account of his conduct. Talk with your teen after the game or practice about the coach's personality, techniques, weaknesses, coaching style and strategies. Even if the coach is on his best behavior while you're there, it shows your teen you're willing to investigate and hold the coach accountable for his actions.

Contact the Employer

You might need to talk to the coach's employer if parent-coach and student-coach discussions prove ineffective. Present factual information about the coach's behavior and avoid opinions or disagreements over game strategies. You're not just trying to win games here; you're trying to help your teenager deal with unfair or harsh treatment. Schools, fitness centers and athletic clubs want to know whether a coach is mean, belittling or disrespectful to players. Reassure your teen that you're taking the matter to higher authorities and plan to help her find a new team and a new coach, if the matter isn't resolved quickly and effectively.

About the Author

As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.