What will you do when your son comes home from practice and says those words? Most parents will probably be quick to insist that’s just not true. “You’re misreading him,” you may say, or, “Maybe he was just grumpy today.” Whether or not it is true is not really the issue; the problem is that your son feels as if his coach dislikes him.
It’s happened to my kids more than once, and if your son plays for any length of time, it will happen to him, too. And when it does, what will you tell him? Quit? Don’t listen to the coach? Tough it out?
Next time your son feels this way, remember:
- When you argue that of course the coach likes him, it will probably fall on deaf ears. Your child feels what he feels and rational explanations will really not do much good to convince him otherwise.
- Ask your son why exactly he feels this way. Listen, listen, and listen. In there somewhere you will most likely hear something that will help you help him. You might be able to help him by giving explanations for the coach’s behavior that he may be misreading, like lack of playing time or the coach pushing him to work harder.
- Confronting the coach is a waste of time. Because, of course, he will deny it. I don’t think you should expect to hear “Oh sorry, Mrs. Smith, you’re right. I really can’t stand your son.” Not going to happen.
- If your son is small, and you feel his claims are valid, encourage him to finish the season and then don’t sign up for that team again. If your son is older and feels courageous, he might ask the coach himself, “Coach, did I do something to displease you? Is there anything I’m not doing that I should be doing?”
- If there is verbal abuse (demeaning talk with put-downs, cussing out your child, or sexual innuendos), it’s time for a little chat with coach. Calmly, Face to face. My husband has worked with coaches who cussed out, made fun of, and belittled high school players. On any level of football, this is unacceptable.
- Sometimes, it’s just a matter of understanding the coach. Encourage your son to seek to understand the coach—philosophy, strategy, expectations. Once he has that figured out, he may feel totally different. His feelings that he is disliked may have more to do with his own frustration than the coach.
- If there is nothing you and your son can really pinpoint, it’s just a “feeling,” then encourages him to listen to and respect the coach, and to play for the love of the game, not the coach’s favor. We’ve always told our kids to play for God and for their own love of the game, so even if they were feeling disliked by coach, they could still give their best effort because they weren’t playing to please him.
When coach clashes happen, it is another opportunity for your child to learn how to get along with difficult people. This is a lesson he will be learning, and applying, the rest of his life.