We have an abusive coach in our organization this season and the administrator sent out an email to everyone telling parents to explain that when coaches are "tough" on them it's because they want them to learn, but it's hard to watch these kids get "bullied" by their coach. However, I'm afraid I'll look like I'm being "a problem mom." It's like a trap— watch your kids get bullied, or get labeled as a problem parent if you speak up.
PCA Response by Director of Training Ruben Nieves
Thanks so much for your question. The situation you present can definitely be challenging to handle and is concerning as it definitely puts up some red flags.
There is a subtle implication in the administrator's email that athletes can only learn from "tough" coaches. At PCA, we know this is not true. Athletes can learn from all kinds of coaches. "Tough" is not a word we put high on our list in order for a coach to be effective. In fact, words like "caring," "dedicated," "respectful" are much more common descriptors of truly effective coaches.
Another common quality of an effective coach is self-discipline. Often, coach behaviors that some label as "tough" are really a lack of coach self-discipline and a lack of other coaching skills.
Here's an interesting take on the concept... academic teachers want their students to learn also, but I've never heard of a principal feeling the need to send out a group email to parents defending teachers being "tough."
A teacher or coach can be reasonably demanding and still be characterized as positive. So what does your administrator mean by "tough?" And did they give examples of "tough" coach behavior that is acceptable in your organization, as well as examples of "tough" coach behavior that is not acceptable?
You have described this coach's behavior as "abusive" and "bullying," not simply as "tough coaching." Perhaps the primary responsibility all adults have to children is to keep them safe. It is a challenging position to be in when you want to keep children safe from abusive coaching, but are naturally worried about how others might speak or think of you if you speak up. PCA's trusted resource, Kidpower International, says: "The safety and healthy self-esteem of a child are more important than anyone's embarrassment, inconvenience or offense."
Children can't be safe and healthy unless adults are willing to embarrass, inconvenience, or offend themselves and other adults! If you feel that the behavior you've seen warrants a discussion with the administration, I think you would be in the right to bring it to their attention in a positive, constructive way.