I’ve read a lot of parent stories on social media this year. We’ve all had those parents and I don’t have all the answers. However, I would like to share one thing I’ve done with my teams in high school and college. During one of our pre-pratice meeting I have the player put their heads down and give me a thumbs up or thumbs down as I ask three questions.
1. Do you all want to play? (Every thumb goes up)
2. Do you all want to play equal minutes win or lose? (No thumbs go up)
3. Do you all want me to substitute players the best way I know how in order to win? (Every thumb goes up)
I then talk to them about how the team voted and how I’ll coach. I’ve told them I will play them all equal if that is what they had voted for but this is not what they chose as a team. (Its not what anyone ever chooses.)
I end the conversation with asking them to talk to their parents when they get home. “Tell your parents how they all voted and how you want me to coach and substitute in the games.”
We then go over how important it is to buy into “us” as a team more than the people, including there parents, who mean well but aren’t here everyday. I tell them that their parents act out of emotion for the kid they love so much and that’s okay, but they want what is best for you, their son, and not necessarily what’s best for the team. Once they, the player, buy into the outside voice a cancer will start to grow and separate the team. One player recruits another to his side and then the two recruit a third and soon there is a divide. It’s important to add that even if a teammate disagrees they are unlikely to call the complainer out. They may sit quietly and even nod, but they won’t start a rift many times. What has now happened is the cancer thinks he has an ally, even though he doesn’t, and that gives the cancer power. Teammates shouldn’t put each other in compromised situations with complaining and if they are put in this position the teammate who is just listening needs to give one response, “go talk to coach if you’re not happy.” No arguing, no agreeing, just good advice.
Finally, I tell the team that no championship team I’ve been a part of has been divided and still won a championship. (I’m sure someone out there will have a rebuttal to this, but a championship team to me doesn’t just mean winning, its building a bond, fighting for each other, and supporting each other no matter the score.)
This has helped set a tone for the players and parents in the program. We revisit this every once in while and remind them that I asked them how they wanted me to coach and they voted for me to coach and sub the best way I know how.