A mother asked me some additional questions about the overparenting post I wrote. In particular, she asked how does this play out in sports. Her question was, “OK, so how do you talk to a coach about playing time?”
At my school, there have been questions about playing time for the boys JV basketball team. On more than one occasion, players have played 2-3 minutes total for a game. With such limited time there usually tends to be a reason – missed practice, players lack of effort, bad practice. However, with some situations there have been questions on the rational of the playing time. So what’s a parent to do in this situation?
If your answer is, “nothing”, yes, that’s an answer. And it’s an answer that should be considered. Sometimes parents have a reactive feeling that they should “do” something. Not necessarily. So please consider doing nothing as a possibility. OK. What else?
You as parent can speak to the coach yourself, without your child. That’s an answer, but I don’t consider it a good one. It’s like parent-teacher conferences – the subject of the conference, the reason that both parent and teacher are here, should be present in the room, your kid. So don’t take on all your kid’s issues yourself. Sure, it’s easier if it’s just you. But hey, parenting is hard.
So I see two possibilities. One, your child talks to the coach himself or herself. Two, your child talks to the coach with you present to make sure the right conversation happens.
Let’s look at number One. This is great if you can make it happen. Some kids are comfortable enough to talk to a grownup on their own. Remind them to speak plainly, and let the coach know why they are meeting. Kids should be respectful, as most coaches are trying to do the same with their players. it doesn’t have to be an argument.
Some kids, though, are not at all comfortable with talking to a grownup. I encounter this often in teaching. This baffles me, even though I know it to be true. I can stand on my head while I say, “I’m always available if you need to talk about class”, and some kids just won’t do it. If this is the case with your child, I say try to push your kid to try talking to the coach alone. My kids have groaned about talking to their coaches about issues, but I’ve encouraged them to do so. Take comfort in this fact; the second time the kids go in is always easier than the first.
Let’s now look at number Two. Before you begin this, make sure you understand your role in being present. Perhaps the only way your kid will talk is if you are there. Or perhaps you want to make sure your kid actually says something. I’ve been in situations where I thought my kid had told the coach something (he even told me he did) only to find out that it didn’t happen, or not the version my kid told me. So ensure a conversation happens. But the reason I asked you to think about why you’re there, is so you don’t control the conversation. If you are doing all the talking, that’s really no different than you speaking to the coach yourself. So be present, be helpful, but not running the conversation.
Sports, like teaching, allows a good lesson in maturity and adversity. It also offers a possibility for parents to help their children learn these lessons. Like many moments in parenting, we have to hope we are making things better and not worse.