As a youth sports coach, I was quite disturbed when I read a story about a father who allegedly punched his daughter’s basketball coach in the face after he made her run laps. After the first punch, the dad climbed on top of the coach and repeatedly punched him in the face and head until he was completely unconscious.
Although this story troubled me deeply, it did not surprise me.
Parents sometimes cross the line, even if they aren’t violent
I’ve never had a parent physically threaten me, but I’ve watched moms and dads turn into verbally abusive jerks.
One dad had to be removed from our 5-year-old flag football game because he kept cursing at the refs and berating the children on the other team. I would have never expected such behavior from this generally subdued man, but something about his son’s flag being captured set him off.
During one of my daughter’s basketball games, I observed a dad encourage his daughter to intentionally try to injure the other girls on the court. I was appalled, but once again not surprised.
A remedy for bad behavior
To prevent this type of behavior, I try to gain some buy-in from the parents at the start of every season. At our first practice, I meet with the parents and deliver this speech:
I have agreed to volunteer my team to teach your children fundamental skills in the sport of (fill in the blank).
Furthermore, I intend to share lessons on teamwork, perseverance, loyalty, respect, and sportsmanship.
In order to achieve these goals, I will need your help. As parents you have a tremendous influence over your children’s lives.
I cannot be successful as a coach and your child can’t be successful as a player if we don’t have your full cooperation and support.
Please refrain from using any profanity towards or being disrespectful to me, the other coaches, the other players, or the officials.
Your kids are watching you and they will model the behavior they observe. Periodically, I may have to discipline your child if he/she is disrupting practices or the game.
I will apply discipline fairly, but I need you to support my decisions and reinforce it with your child. I will always discuss discipline issues with you in an open an honest fashion.
I’m looking forward to partnering with you to have a fantastic season.
For the most part, the parents abide by these guidelines. I remember one situation when two boys on my basketball team were fighting. I fully expected the parents to come out of the bleachers and intervene. Instead, they allowed me to handle it. After the game, both sets of parents thanked me for the even-handed way I remedied the situation.
They gave me hope that parents and coaches can work together for the benefit of the children. Best of all, nobody was punched!