Tough Love

Because of articles we’ve written such as Parents and Playing Time and The Coach is Treating My Child Unfairly, we are asked our opinion on situations from parents with children who are struggling in some manner. Below is a recent email we received, and our response. We titled this post, “Tough Love,” because that is what we gave the mom who wrote in, but also what we advised her to give to her son.

Please help I want to do the right thing.

My son has always had play time – he is a junior in high school now and sits on the bench and is miserable.

I told him to talk to coach and ask for specific examples of what he could do to improve.  The first time my son spoke with him he told him he should be thinking about starting next year (but other Juniors play). The second time was two weeks later and he told him to work on his footwork and he would try him at 1st. He has played 3rd and catcher his whole life. 

I am frustrated because he sees no play time and the others are no better than him.  I am hard on my kids – if he wasn’t any good I wouldn’t tell him he was I would encourage him to take up another sport but he is good. He can throw from left to home with barely any effort, he can hit a solid single at bat, he is a good base runner and a great 3rd base. A freshman is playing 3rd and not wowing me at all.  I have never talked to a coach about play time.  I have never thought it was appropriate but my son is so unhappy and he used to love the game.  How do I broach the subject with the coach?  Now we are headed off to an expensive tourney with a hotel stay and 3 days of games.  I know if he doesn’t play my son will be miserable and frankly I will be fit to be tied that we went all that way at great expense and no play time.  What should I do?

A struggling mom

Our response:

Thank you for your note and I am sorry for the situation your son is in. I understand you want to talk to the coach about your son’s playing time. I would encourage you to think about a few things first. Obviously, the coach knows your son wants to play. And he likely knows you are not happy, (nor are the other kids and parents whose sons aren’t playing). His job is not to make players and parents happy, but to play the kids he feels give the team the best chance to win, which he is doing. If you approach the coach, what about that equation would change? He probably isn’t going to give your son playing time just because you complained. And, even if he did, is that the way you want your son to receive playing time? Because his mom complained to the coach? You want him to get playing time because he earned it on his own. I always like to point to the future, when your son is in the workplace. If he has a job where he does not feel he is getting treated fairly, will you be able to intervene then? No, he’ll have to stick up for himself, work harder, find a new job, etc. Well, high school sports are when these lessons are being learned.

Also, think of it this way: If you were to talk to the coach and request more playing time and, for some reason, the coach gave in, is that fair to the player your son replaced? If your son were playing and another parent complained to the coach and now, your son was on the bench, wouldn’t you be very upset? And what if every parent on the team approaches the coach and demands more playing time?

So the bottom line is that your son did the right thing approaching the coach on his own. It is not your job. I know we hate to see our kids miserable, but they have to learn to work themselves out of situations like this, not have parents come in and try to rescue them. He needs to be the first one at practice every day, the last one to leave. He should be asking the coach to stay after to pitch him batting practice or to leave the cage open so he can hit off the tee. Make the coach have to give him a chance because of his work ethic, and then when he gets his opportunity, make the most of it.

I hope this helps, and good luck with the season.

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