“Stay Out of This”

Students, parents, and coaches alike discuss whether they think it’s appropriate or not for parents to intervene in their child’s sport when they don’t agree with the coach’s decision.

Artwork+by+Claire+Hallman+%2717

Artwork by Claire Hallman '17

Mikaela Uddfolk '17

Every athlete knows that moment of disappointment they have when their coach has made them upset. They over analyze something their coach said or did, let it get in their head, and maybe even cry a little bit. During this process, they might even tell one of their parents about what is making them upset. From there, it’s up to the parents to decide what to do: should they intervene and talk to the coach about the issue, let the student handle it, or just let it blow over?

Differing parents of student athletes have vastly different beliefs in what the correct method is when it comes to handling issues with the coach. Amy Bergren, parent of Joey Bergren ‘17, said that she believes in teaching independence.

“I think parents should encourage their children to speak directly with the coach once they’re at the high school level,” Bergren said. “I feel like it’s a better relationship for the player to directly talk to the coach if they’re concerned about not getting enough playing time. I feel like parents need to respect the coach’s decision. There’s usually a reason why kids aren’t being played, and it’s important for the player to understand that directly from the coach and for the parents to have minimal interaction on behalf of the children.”

Howard Hu, the junior varsity girls volleyball coach, agreed that the coaches usually know what’s best for the team.

“Just because I pull you out doesn’t mean I hate you,” Hu said. “I’m just trying to win for the team.”

However, Bergren also shared how if a coach crosses a line, parents need to take action.

“If there’s a problem that’s not having to do with playing time but parents feel that players are being mistreated in another way by the coach, I do think that you need to protect students if it’s a really bad coach,” she said.

Many students tend to share this mindset and make sure their parents put it to use.

“I agree with parents talking to the coach only if the coach is being not a good coach; not a good role model,” Arita Kalaba ‘17 said. “If a coach is putting down a player to the point where a kid wants to quit their favorite sport, then yeah, that’s when you intervene. You don’t intervene just because your kid’s not getting playing time; you’re intervening when the coach is making your kid cry on the bench,” Kalaba related to an experience she encountered involving a parent-coach intervention.  

The students are usually the ones who are the most affected by their parents’ comments, often causing a strain on their relationship with their coach.

“I understand they [the parents] just want the best for their kids, but the athletes feed off their parents,” Kristen Bianchi, the freshman girls basketball coach said. “Once the kid feels a parent get involved, they are embarrassed, and it generally affects their play.”

Parent-coach intervention has become such a hot topic that some teams are taking preventative measures.

Jack Bonney ‘17, a hockey player, said that his team “actually has a rule that parents can’t communicate with coaches 24 hours before and after a game besides a general conversation.”

Nonetheless, as Bergren puts it, “There are always parents that complain about their kid not getting enough playing time.”

This inevitable drama that results from being on a team sport brings memorable stories for coaches, athletes, and other parents alike during the season.

“My sister was getting kind of pushed around and bullied by the coach to the point where she was literally about to quit her favorite sport ever because of bad coaching,” Kalaba said. After her parents spoke with the coach, it proved beneficial, but not in the way the family was hoping. Instead of trying to improve the hostile athlete-coach relationship on the court, the coach was trying to solve her problem with the family.

“She felt bad. She texted me and was like, ‘Does your dad like Starbucks?,’ and got him a Starbucks gift card,” Kalaba said.

However, athletes aren’t the only ones who experience less than pleasant experiences during the sports season. Coaches receive their fair share of messy situations.

“There was something very ugly that happened, where a parent of a player sent an email to the coach,” Bergren recalled. “It was a very poorly written email complaining not just about her own son getting time, but really berating [the coach], using really bad language, and she copied the whole team. [She copied] all the parents, all the coaches: the whole team. That was about the worst example of poor sportsmanship.”

“I once had a mom argue with me that her kid was doing ‘loop de oops’ wrong, and that made me a bad coach,” Bianchi said. “She meant lay ups.”