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Coach, Leader, Parent

Should Parents Discuss Playing Time With A Coach?

"My son is 8 and is the biggest and strongest on his team.  There are 11 kids on the team. My son has batted 4th the entire season, hit a few balls out of the park(the only kid to do so), and I'd bet my life has the most RBIs by a long shot. Here is my issue-he is 1 of 2 kids that switch out every inning defense as the catcher. My question is how/if I should say something to the coach about it. We are in our last tournament. We paid just as much as any other family, and my son literally has played HALF of the time.  I just wish a little more of a rotation was happening between 4 or 5 players. I'd love to hear from someone about this."

PCA response by Wayne Parro, Senior Coaching Consultant, Coaching Association of Canada

I will begin by suggesting the most important detail in your note is that your son, and his team, are eight years old! The All Star team is ahead of its time, and all of these players will see their peers evolve as people and athletes, over the next 10-12 years. They are only beginning their sport-for-development experience!

At eight years old, children should be given the opportunity to play different positions in any sport, in order to learn and experience the game, and develop a love of sport. It is far too early to determine that a player is a “natural” at any position. And, winning most definitely should not be the priority of the coaching staff. All players on your son’s team should be given the opportunity to play all positions.

Should you speak to the coach. Absolutely. However, you should do your research in advance and then request a meeting with the coach.

How did the coach explain the program to the parents at the beginning of the season? Is this consistent with what you are currently experiencing? What is the philosophy of the organization in terms of playing time and player development? Who is the head coach or technical director of the organization and what is their opinion on your son’s situation? Would this person be willing to participate in a meeting with the coach? You should also identify what outcomes you would like from a meeting with the coach, including how corrections are being made during training and competitions; yelling at eight-year-olds is not acceptable behavior in sport when it comes to coaching them.

Approaching the situation with rational, fact-driven thoughts, should eliminate adversarial push-back by the coach. Having the organization involved in the meeting sends a powerful message about their expectations, and we always recommend this approach to ensure that both parties are heard, and the conversation stays on point. We recommend that parents and coaches NEVER have this type of meeting in a one-to-one, closed door, environment. There should always been at least a third party participant, and preferably someone from your sport organization.

Finally, the questions noted above should be asked at a pre-season meeting with the coaching staff on future teams, so the parents’ expectations are conveyed at that time. This should set the bar for all participants and will most important, create a positive and fun sport experience for athletes, coaches and parents.

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