Letter from a Volunteer Coach

By Brian Gotta

I’ve coached dozens of teams and hundreds of kids. I’m pretty comfortable being “The Coach.” But today I was thinking about the average volunteer who may only be coaching because no one else was willing to do it. I thought it might be useful if some of the parents who don’t volunteer their time, but are quick to criticize those who do, could see things from the coach’s perspective. So what is written below is a letter to those parents from a volunteer coach who could be anywhere, coaching any sport:

Dear Parents,

Today I heard a comment made about me behind my back. I started to turn around and look, but then decided better of it and kept my eyes on the field. My wife hears things like this more often than I do, because many of you don’t know who she is. She tells me what you say. I have received angry emails, full of “suggestions,” about who should be playing where and how I lost that day’s game for the kids. I thought I’d write an open letter to all of you parents, even though I might never send it. I’ll start it this way: “I am a volunteer.”

I’m the one who answered the call when the league said they didn’t have enough coaches. I understand that you were too busy. I have some news for you. I’m not retired. I’m busy too. I have other children and a job, just like you do. Not only do I not get paid to do this – it costs me money. I see you walk up to the game 15 minutes after it started, still dressed for work. Do you know I’ve already been here over an hour? Imagine if you had to leave work early nearly every day. I’ve never seen you at a practice. I’m sure you’re plugging away at the office. But I’m out here, on the field, trying my best to teach these children how to play a sport they love, while my bank account suffers.

I know. I make mistakes. In fact, maybe I’m not even that great of a coach. But I treat the kids fairly and with respect. I am pretty sure they like coming to my practices and games, and without me or someone like me, there’d be no team for them to play on. I’m part of this community too and it’s no picnic being out here on this stage like this. It’s a lot easier back there with the other parents where no one is second-guessing you.

And I also know you think I give my son or daughter unfair advantages. I try not to. In fact, have you ever considered that maybe I’m harder on him than on the others? I’m sure he hears plenty of criticism at school from classmates, who hear it from you at home, about what a terrible coach I am. And if, even unconsciously, my kids are getting a slight advantage because I know them better and trust their abilities, is that the worst thing in the world, considering the sacrifice I’m making? Trust me, I want to win too. And if your son or daughter could guarantee we’d do that, I’d give them the chance.

After this game is over, I’ll be the last one to leave. I have to break down the field, put away all the equipment and make sure everyone has had a parent arrive to pick them up. There have been evenings when my son and I waited with a player until after dark before someone came to get them. Many nights I’m sure you’ve already had dinner and are relaxing on the couch by the time I finally kick the mud off my shoes and climb into my car, which hasn’t been washed or vacuumed for weeks. Why bother cleaning it during the season? Do you know how nice it would be if, just once, after a game one of you offered to carry the heavy gear bag to my car or help straighten up the field?

If I sound angry, I’m not. I do this because I love it and I love being around the kids. There are plenty of rewards and I remind myself that while you’re at the office working, your kid is saying something that makes us all laugh or brings a tear to my eye. The positives outweigh the negatives. I just wish sometime those who don’t choose to volunteer their time would leave the coaching to the few of us who do.



Author: Brian Gotta, President of CoachDeck LLC, (www.coachdeck.com)

15 Responses

  1. […] of CoachDeck, LLC highlighted the unique obstacles and joys volunteer coaches faces in his “Letter from a Volunteer Coach.” We’ve shared the letter […]

  2. […] popular article, Letter From a Volunteer Coach, was read on the JB and Sandy Morning Show from Mix 94.7 FM. Listen to the on-air read […]

  3. […] The following article by Brian Gotta is re-posted from http://www.coachdeck.com. […]

  4. Reblogged this on Shannonside FC and commented:
    Best description of what it means to be a volunteer coach or manager. All parents should read this.

  5. Who ever you are good stuff. Have no clue what team you coach for, but I hope its my daughters… keep pushing forward. The parent’s of the children you coach should be greatful…

  6. Thank you for telling your side. Maybe this will open some eye when they are asked to step up and volunteer…….

    • How great can a coach be? Several years ago, in a basketball game my grandson played in, there was a player who had never made a basket. I don’t recall if his team was way ahead or behind but the coach instructed the team that this player, who had never made a basket, would get the ball on their end of the court until he scored. After several possessions he scored and the spectators roared, the player beamed, the team raced on the court. You would think they had won a national championship.

      The opposing team’s coach and the refs were aware of the situation and cooperated. They had not been informed ahead of time but through the team’s chatter and actions became supportive of the importance of making just one player feel that he was the most important person on the court.

      The coach instilled in his team that day the joy of seeing and helping one person succeed at what he was working so hard for for years and not giving up. Joy and excitement comes in many forms and can be experienced by another’s success. I don’t recall my grandson’s contributions to that game but can still see the ultimate high experienced by one player because a volunteer coach cared so much for the feelings of each individual on the team.

  7. On the other side of the coin…. Yes as parents we are truely grateful for those volunteer coaches who put their 100% in to the team. Circumstances do prevent some parents from volunteering, which may or may not include them volunteering for other community groups but it really irks me that the “50%” coaches who do volunteer pull this out as their “go to” card. Yes I do volunteer elsewhere but I’m not going to be bullied into volunteering for this as well. Every parent is tarnished by the same brush here and that is not fair.

    I recently had an issue where a coach regularly cancelled training, there was lack of communication within the club and the coach was not turning up to training and games including the first ever game of the season. Really, I know you volunteer but please don’t volunteer if you can’t be there for the kids, it sends a really shitty message about the effort required. As parents, who cannot volunteer, we pay our money, we buy the equipment, we get them enthusiastic about going to training and games, we’re there every training, we’re there every game and seriously it’s a case of who came first the chicken or the egg as a coach we can’t survive without you but on the other hand you wouldn’t have a team to volunteer to if you didn’t have the effort of the parents to do this. I am pretty sure that most parents who cannot volunteer as a coach would able to help out during the season (setting up/packing up) has anyone bothered to ask them? Some parents do have anxiety and other issues which prevents them from asking if you need help. It sounds like here there is a lack of communication and respect between the coach and parents. Something that open communication should be able to solve; not the response that I received recently when I brought up issues “You’re more than welcome to find another club next year”

  8. I think this is a great letter and it is unfortunate that it comes down to this. That said I have been witness to this type of parent behavior as a parent on the sidelines and as a coach. A critical part of any season is your first parent meeting where a coach can clearly outline their programs philosophy and expectations from parents and players. Nattering parents are a pain and if you cannot communicate with the coach directly in an adult manner it’s pretty sad. I would encourage families and coaches who want sport to be great to check out http://www.truesport.ca as there are tremendous True Sport Principles that can be used in any sport program from grassroots to higher performance programs. It should NOT be about the parents or the coach…..it is always about the players 🙂 We all need a gut check on this from time to time.

    • Hi Greg,

      Thank you for your comments. We have posted several items from True Sport and really like what you guys do. We should consider partnering.

      • I work for an organization called Sport Manitoba and I have personally used the True Sport Principles with parents of clubs I have coached. I have found them to be a great tool that can remind families of the value sport can bring to an athlete, family, school, club etc. At Sport Manitoba we have mandated an on-line training program for coaches called Respect in Sport. We all know of an incident with a coach that has been out of line and I think it’s fair to say not every coach will change their behavior based on taking a workshop, however what we have found is that we can empower the behavior of those around the coach (and this can apply to parents, managers etc) to speak up when things are not right. There is also a Respect in Sport Parent Program that many Hockey organizations across Canada have mandated for Parents. If you do not take the training your son or daughter is not allowed to register for hockey. Sounds extreme but it is bringing to light the challenges in youth sport and again empowering more parents to correct behavior in the stands as well! Love the dialogue as we work to make sport the best place a kid can be 🙂

  9. […] Be Kind To Your Coach by Brian Gotta Read More […]

  10. […] What seems to be an open letter to the club’s parents from an unnamed coach is actually a form letter that has been doing the rounds of sporting clubs across the globe on social media since at least 2010. […]

  11. This was well said coach. I am interested in signing my son up for little league this spring. And it’s a guy like you I would love for him to play for.
    I’m a parent that works all the time and in the past hasn’t had time to focus on extracurricular activities for my kids. My son will be 10 and I think it’s about time for him to get into sports. He’s not athletic at all, but his friends play and he wants to give it a try. Hopefully your words weren’t taken out on context and parents can now look at things from your point of view. I’ve played sports as a kid and my favorite person was my coach. My mother was a single parent and had no time to get me to practice, so me and my friends used to walk there and back. Back in my playing days that was the norm. Kids now a days would have a heart attack if they had to walk, practice and have to drag back home. It’s more of an entitled society we live in and parents are setting a bad example. Coaches need to be appreciated. You shouldn’t have to write a letter like this, but someone should have the courage to correct the naysayers. With all this being said I understand how you feel. Hopefully things have and will change since you wrote this. If not, at least I can be someone who can let you know to stick in there and continue doing what you do. Some people don’t get it, but don’t worry they don’t get a lot of things. Look forward to meeting you in the future.

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