I originally posted this in 2015 but a few things have been playing on my mind in recent weeks and I thought I should maybe revisit it.
Obviously I can really only speak about my experiences in my sport but, the vast majority of swim coaches in Ulster are largely volunteers, parents who started coaching because there was a need, ex swimmers who love the sport and wish to put something back. People who put aside their personal ambition to help fulfill the dreams of the athletes under their guidance.
When I started swimming in a club at the age of 10 my mum took me and my sister to every practice, she sat and watched and listened to every word the Coach said (probably to make sure that I didnt misbehave)
One of the greatest lessons that she taught me, was that my teachers and coaches are always right…even when they are wrong.
I know for sure there were times that I felt that I was hard done by by decisions made by coaches.
I know also that there were times that she felt like I was not being treated fairly, and I suspect that that hurt her.
The thing is i never once heard my mum talk negatively about any of my coaches or teachers. She kept up to speed on what was going on and what was being said, but never voiced her negative thoughts, that would have certainly influenced how I viewed my swimming and my role in the team.
She was teaching me a respect for authority that I have never forgotten.
Now I did witness some parents who took a different route and looked for any and every opportunity to jump down a coaches throat, when something didn’t go perfectly for their child.
It seemed like those kids just went from team to team every year in search of the “perfect” coach.
There is only one problem with this approach, there is no such thing.
I believe that today, there is very little respect given to the coaches and teachers of youth sport. Parents are quick to defend their kds and voice their disapproval during the car ride home after training or meets or at the dinner table.
How can we expect our young athletes to return to training and not mirror the attitudes their parents have taught them?
If parents show disrespect to the decisions that are being made in their kids sporting careers by people with more knowledge and who have the long term best interests of their development at heart, why should they then respect any authority figure?
The long term problem is that these young athletes may not learn to cope with setbacks and the truth is, life at times will have setbacks!
How parents handle those disappointments can set their kids up for success if the teaching opportunity is recognised.
The last point is this…
Coaches and teachers have studied and spent time gaining experience in their chosen field and parnets (myself included now 😊) must learn to trust that what the coach does is for the best of each and every young athlete under their tutilage.
Coaches will largely have a better understanding of the long term development of athletes then parents. We (parents) may not understand why certain decisions are made but do we need to understand? Surely the need is to trust that the coach knows best.
Youth sports clubs must always be coach driven, athlete centred and supported by parents/friends/family etc when parents start to dictate and thinking it is about them then we have a problem…
The flip side of this is obviously that as coaches the onus is on us to always act in a way that builds trust, we will undoubtedly make decisions that upset people and we should always be willing to discuss, in the appropriate setting, the rational behind these decisions.
We are very good at policies and practices that protect the children and young people in our programs (and rightly so) but this at times throws into stark contrast another question…….who protects the coaches?
Now ……….. that’s a question for another day
till next time