Athlete, Coach, Parent

How Can Players and Parents Respond When a Coach Asks Their Team to Flop?

After a rough lacrosse game, my daughter let me know that her coach told the team to over-act when pushed or fouled so the referees would call things in their favor. The officials weren’t calling much for either team so I understand why the coach went there but, her request didn’t sit well with my daughter or me. 

We talked about it and were left with two questions. The first one is pretty simple: is it wrong to over-act or flop in sports? 

And then we also wondered…if it is wrong, how can players and parents respond when a coach asks their team to flop?

Response by Youth Basketball Coach Ashley Gartland

This question made me think of a scene in the 90s film The Mighty Ducks, in which the new hockey coach, played by Emilio Estevez, teaches his players how to draw penalties by flopping because he says they’ll never win a game otherwise. 

In response, some players refuse to flop and some parents threaten to pull their kids from the team, prompting Estevez to change his approach and create a more positive experience.

Coaches who promote flopping are typically trying to get the official’s attention and control the outcome of the game - and it might even work. But in the long run, asking players to flop proves problematic, and that’s why I don’t ask my players to flop.

The biggest problem with flopping is that it promotes disrespectful play. If you’re familiar with PCA teachings, you know that the organization talks about the importance of honoring the game - specifically the ROOTS of the game, where players learn to respect the rules, their opponents, the officials, their teammates and themselves. Asking players to flop actively encourages them to disrespect every one of these things and makes it difficult to instill the practice of honoring the game. 

Additionally, when a coach encourages flopping, it gets players too focused on trying to control things they can’t control, like how officials are calling a game or how their opponents are playing. Inviting kids to focus on things they can control, such as their effort and their attitude, creates a more positive experience for players and offers coaches an opportunity to teach key life lessons through sports.

Finally, it’s important to note that positive coaches teach players to try and win a game by playing the game the way it’s supposed to be played, not by looking for ways to manipulate the game so the score falls in their favor. 

The bigger question, though, is what can you do about it? 

This scenario presents a challenge for players and parents who want to respect coaches and generally follow their guidance. That’s why I suggest asking questions to try and understand where the coach is coming from instead of criticizing their approach. If I were a parent talking to a coach (or a parent and player talking to a coach), I’d say something along the following lines…

Hey coach, can I have a minute? I wanted to follow up on the game last week because I heard that you asked the players to flop. I was wondering if you could help me understand why you wanted them to do that. 

This approach opens up the conversation without being too confrontational, which will hopefully help the coach feel comfortable talking about their views and get them to listen to your side of the story as well. 

While it might be uncomfortable, a short conversation could alleviate the problem. But it could also uncover a coach who is unwilling to do things differently and who will continue to ask their players to flop. I hope it’s the first scenario but, if it’s the latter, remember that it’s ok to move on and find a better fit for your daughter.

Ashley Gartland is a writer, coach and former high school athlete. She currently lives in Portland, Oregon, where she coaches a youth girls basketball team in the Portland Interscholastic League.

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