Another response to Parents and Playing Time

One of our more popular and oft-read articles, Parents and Playing Time, drew the attention of the parents of a high school girls volleyball player. Below is the email they sent in:

I came across your site when I google searched “Tips for parents dealing with other parents that complain about playing time”

In my situation I’m not the coach, but a parent of an athlete.  I will however say that my wife and I are former athletes that played at a high level and into college.  We’ve also coached in the past so to sum it up…”we get it”.  Our philosophy is “The coach is the coach and we are fans”.   Having said that, we’re now in a situation with our daughter’s team where a group of rogue parents are planning an attack to have our coach fired.  Playing time is their entry point to the athletic director, but I can see through the smokescreen to see that they have deeper intentions.

While they will complain about playing time of their kids or their kids playing out of position, their deeper intention is to ultimately try to get the coach fired so that they can make a push to get their coach of choice hired (their club coach) and get their kids into the positions they want them in.  This statement has been observed personally  by my daughter and other players and parents on multiple occasions who’ve overheard those parents and even their children boasting about it.  Unfortunately one of the positions being disputed is one that my daughter plays and she could very well be adversely impacted which is tough for me to witness.

I’ll go on record to say that their children are talented, but so is my daughter.  What sets them apart is:

  • Work ethic/effort
  • Attitude

My daughter puts forth great effort every day (in practice, classroom, conditioning, etc.), is coachable, respectful to the coach/parents/teammates/opponents/referee’s/etc.  We are parents that don’t run to coach when she sits when not performing well in games or has to miss a practice for illness.  These are all statements from the coach to us about our daughter not our own words.  I will say that this does not surprise us though b/c that’s what we teach our daughter.  As a sophomore she’s a 2nd year varsity player and a co-captain this year. (that’s another issue these parents seem to have b/c their children are upperclassmen)

Having outlined above, I’m at a loss as to how to properly go about handling this personally.  If I were the parent of those children, my approach would be (and has been) to encourage my child to reflect and work on their mistakes, work harder, be coachable, respectfully ask the coach what they can do to improve and if they can honestly look themselves in the mirror and say they’ve done all of those things then it may be time to accept that others are simply better or more deserving.  They are not taking this approach.

As a parent of a child who could very well be impacted by this situation, how do I handle it?  Do I still take your advice and let this play itself out and be a life lesson for her or do you feel it’s reasonable to also have a discussion with the AD about this matter in support of the coach?  Approach it in a very tactful and matter of fact tone to bring awareness of this situation and then hope he will do what he feels is the right thing.  I don’t claim to know whether the coach is good or not.  Although I understand the game of Volleyball, I don’t claim to know everything…especially when it comes to how the game should be coached.

Sorry for the novel, but I found your article to be directly in-line with my way of thinking.  The only problem is it addresses the situation from a coaches perspective.  How would you advise another parent who’s battling this type of situation?

We asked for more background and sent along this article because of the similarities:

I’m not qualified to say our coach is or is not a good coach.  Likewise it’s very possible that this coach those parents are trying to “set the stage” for is a great coach.  My issue is the method of attack those parents are engaging in and the fact that I and many other parents/players can clearly see that their children don’t work hard or have a good attitude.  Our kids have to walk a thin line too b/c a few (not all) of the problematic girls are African American and would not hesitate to pull the race card out at any time (I hate to reference that point, but it’s very much in play here).  I think our coach is passionate (definitely not a bully) about winning and developing a program that can be successful long term and produce players that go on to do good things in life (build strong work ethic and character).  My wife and I do not associate with her outside of saying the occasional hello and talking with her if there is a concern with our daughter.

Furthermore, in this case their children do get playing time.  It’s volleyball so there is a rather frequent rotation and substitution pattern.  No one plays the entire match, but some get more court time and some get less, but in large everyone does play.  The issue these parents seem to have is that their kids are either not playing as much as they think they should or not playing a position they think they  should be playing.

The scary part in all of this is that the lady leading the charge is the mother of a player that gets a lot of playing time and is positioned appropriately for her size and skill.  Again, she’s a talented player, but could have a better attitude, but that’s a moot point.  The scary part that I mention is that this lady is a high ranking administrator in the school district who happens to be African American and is using her power on behalf of the parents that have the actual issue.  They don’t carry much weight with them and likely (would) be chalked up to being disgruntled.   Honestly speaking, I believe this lady knows their ignorance would get in their way and stop them in their tracks because I see no reason she should have an issue with the coach other than the coach addressing the girls attitude.

Did not include this earlier, but I think are more relevant points to share.

Sorry for the 2nd chapter, but hopefully it’s helpful in allowing you to see the overall scope of my concern.  I want to do the right thing, but not sure what the right thing to do is exactly.  This is a very murky situation IMO.

Obviously a thoughtful email and interesting predicament. What would you suggest? We’ll post our response tomorrow.


Still more about playing time and parents

We continue to get questions sent to us about our article about parents and their kids’ playing time. Below is one received yesterday, and our response. We can only hope that the parents of this coach-pitch level boy are slightly exaggerating the behavior of this coach. We have a feeling they are not.

I just read your article on playing time and while I agree, in theory, with your point about parents not intervening regarding playing time – what do you think parents should do if a coach is really out of control?

My older two boys (15 & 12) play travel and high school baseball. My husband and I have NEVER discussed playing time with their coaches. When they were or weren’t getting playing time – we have left it to them to earn more or talk with their coach. My husband has coached for years, my brother is a high school coach, and we have fantastic friendships with our other boys current and past coaches.

My eight year old is on a team this spring with the same coach he had last year. For the first time in 10 years of having kids playing youth baseball we requested a different coach and somehow ended back with this guy. Quite frankly – he is a jerk. Yesterday was the first game and he had his kid and his kids two best friends play 6 innings in the infield while there were other kids on the team who played two in the infield and two on the bench (which is actually against league rules). Last year he let my son play short stop while his kid was taking a bathroom break and when his kid came back he pulled my 7 year old out mid-inning and said loudly enough to be heard by the audience “X sit down – X is back now and he is better than you”. He laughs at kids when they make errors. This is in an instructional/recreational (not travel) coach pitch league with a five run limit per inning where the final score is often 25-25. Nothing is at stake except the kids feelings and development.

My husband and I are trying to figure out what to do. Do you think that when an adult is behaving this badly and the kids are this young – parents should still do nothing? I am really struggling with this because while I believe kids need to learn to navigate these situations themselves – it seems that parents should protect kids from adults who are abusing their power.

I am assuming that you have gotten feedback from your article so I would love your perspective on if it is ever appropriate to say anything to the coach or even the commissioner?

Our response:

Thank you for your note and your comments. You are correct, I do get a lot of feedback from my article. Very often my advice is probably not what the parent wants to hear, because I “read between the lines” in their complaints and can tell that the reality is that the coach really isn’t being unfair, but the player is simply not deserving of playing time based on performance and/or effort, isn’t working hard enough, etc. But in these cases we’re talking about older kids than yours.

The fact that you have older sons playing, your husband coaches, and that you say you have not ever complained about playing time leads me to believe that this is an unusual and difficult situation. My article was aimed at the parents of older children. Of course, I would not say that an eight year-old should have to talk to the coach about his playing time. Especially if this guy is as big a jerk as you describe.

At that age, all kids should be rotated around to all positions. Maybe the positions shouldn’t be 100% equal in distribution, but no one should play the entire game in the infield, nor the outfield. And no player should ever sit out a second inning until everyone else has sat out his first.

So the part where I provide advice is a little tougher. I have a feeling you don’t want to be the complaining parents, that this isn’t your style. And if the coach were following the rules to a T, but was just a snide, unpleasant guy, I’d almost say you’re going to have to put up with it. However, if he is breaking the rules in terms of playing time and/or positions, it absolutely should be reported. Again, I can only take you at your word about how big a jerk this guy is, but from your description it seems unlikely that having a conversation with him will bear fruit. I would definitely report what he is doing, (the rules part) to the commissioner and I think I’d fill in the other details about his demeanor as well. You may want to ask that the commissioner not mention who reported the information so that there is less chance of retribution against your son.

Of course, the best-case outcome means that the coach will have to follow the rules to the minimum standard, which still might allow him to be unfair about rotating player around, (just not AS unfair) and it is unlikely he will stop being a jerk. So the only three options beyond this I can think of would be to see if your husband can volunteer to help as an assistant, (which this guy may not accept), or just make the best of if or, if it gets too bad, pull your son off the team.

I’m sorry that this is happening and wish I had more to offer. I hope this helps and thanks again for writing.