My active little boy may not be old enough for organized sports (although he does enjoy crawling with a tennis racket in hand), but this is already something that concerns us as parents. My husband grew up playing tennis being coached by his mother, who was probably the kindest coach out there, but there are certainly plenty of awful sports parents out there to compare her to — both as coaches and on the sidelines. We’ve already agreed that if Andrew does start playing more competitively, it will probably be best if he works with a coach that is NOT his father. (Note that I’m not an option. My athletic abilities off the dance floor are minimal at best.)
So how do you rate coaches? What do you look for? This is a post that I’ll save in my back pocket to refer to one day, both for whenever we need to start looking for organized activities and if Tim ever agrees to coach a team for Andrew. I’ll just support them both by bringing the snacks.
How do you know if your child’s coach is a good one?
The mistreatment of athletes by coaches is nothing new (see Knight, Bobby), but it does seem to be getting more attention in the past few years. Stories of athlete abuse and harassment at such universities as Rutgers and the University of Tennessee — and even at the Olympic level — have made national headlines, while stories of coaches to younger athletes are chilling: The California teen paralyzed after tackling an opponent head first during a football game, a technique taught to him by his Pop Warner coaches, or the story of a coach berating a young player in front of his teammates, calling him a “f—ing retard.”
Studies back up these anecdotes. A 2011 paper published in the UK found that among 6,000 student athletes polled across the U.K., “75% said they suffered ’emotional harm’ at least once, and one-third of them said their coach was the culprit.” And a 2005 study in the U.S. found that “45% of the student athletes said their coaches called them names, insulted them or verbally abused them another way during play.”
So how do we protect our children and make sure their coaches encourage with positive reinforcement, rather than belittling them?