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How do I Approach a Coach About Problems with My Student Athlete?

The competitiveness of youth and college sports can lead to strained relationships between an athlete and their coach. I recommend parents encourage their athletes to handle the discussions with the coach as these can be some of the most critical teachable moments in a young person’s development. However, there comes a point as a parent where you might feel it is best for you to talk to the coach directly (when that is up to your own interpretation of the situation). In this article, I discuss how to approach the coach in a way that gives your family the best chance for maintaining a positive relationship with your child’s coach.

It’s About Your Student Athletes Well Being

The first point you need to establish with the coach is that you are approaching them with concern for your athlete’s well being. You are not approaching them about playing time, scholarship amount or how the coach runs their program. When coaches feel like you are there to discuss how they run their team, they can become very defensive and it leads to unproductive conversations. You are simply approaching the coach for clarification on your athlete’s unhappiness, that is it.

*My general rule of thumb for parents in this situation, the coach should be talking 90% of the time. You are on a fact finding mission, not to discuss the issues.

Step Away From the He Said She Said

In my experience, when an athlete is frustrated with a coach (whatever the reason), they tend to exaggerate the reasons why things are going badly. This is not to say their problems aren’t real, they are, but that the truth about what is going wrong is usually somewhere between what the athletes are saying and what the coaches are saying. When you approach the coach, you want to get clarification on the points your athlete is frustrated about (try to avoid making any judgments about what you think is right or wrong until you get all of your questions answered).  Once you’ve talked with the coach, go back and discuss all of the points with your athlete and come up with what you think are the best next steps.

Make a Plan on What to do Next

Once you’ve gathered all of the facts, the next step is making a plan with your athlete on what to do next. I have seen many “terrible” coach athlete relationships get turned around once the athlete and coach have had a sit down conversation about what is wrong and establish a clear understanding of what needs to be done moving forward. It helps tremendously if the coach feels the support of the athletes parents towards the goal of helping the athlete grow and mature.

Sometimes, despite the best intentions, the best thing to do is look for a new team. At the college level, this usually means requesting a transfer which is not a straight forward process and more details on that process are below.

More Resources on Transfers and NCAA Rules

NCAA Transfer Guide 2014-15


Baldwin Wallace University Athletic Recruiting.

If you have questions about how to approach a problem with a coach, leave your question in the comments below or contact our website through email.

Are you ready for the NEXT STEP!