5 Key Questions for Parents to Ask Coaches

By Dr. Chris Stankovich:

If you are a parent with children involved in youth sports it is important that you stay proactive in the experience if you hope for your child to get the most out of sports. Unfortunately, in cases where kids have less than positive outcomes in youth sports, it is often due to the disconnect and lack of positive role modeling between parent and coach. For example, if a parent expects that all kids on the team will play equally, but the coach has a philosophy that only the best kids will play, it’s likely the parent will feel discriminated against when seeing other kids get more playing time than their child.

As a parent, there are many things you can do to help minimize the chances of your child having a bad experience in sports, including increasing your efforts to better understand the coach and his/her philosophy toward coaching. The following 5 questions are designed to help you in this pursuit, and can minimize some of the ambiguities that often exist between coach and parent:

1. Ask the coach about the competitive nature of the team/league. Before signing your child up for a team, be sure you fully understand whether it is an “elite” team/premier league, or recreational. This may sound like common sense, but even today we still have many parents who assume all youth sports leagues are the same — they are clearly not!

2. Ask the coach about how playing time is determined. In elite and competitive leagues playing time is almost always dependent on talent, whereas in recreational leagues it is more common to see the “everyone plays equally” model in effect.

3. Ask the coach about any related time/money costs that might not be immediately known during sign-ups. For example, if your child will travel for competition, ask the coach what type of costs are typically involved? In recreational leagues traveling costs may not apply, but there may be time obligations to consider — like the annual cleanup the field day.

4. Ask the coach about the consequences of time conflicts and potential missed games/practices. Of course, while the goal is to responsibly attend all practices and games, there are often times where parents get stuck at work, or face a conflict between their kids and their schedules. It is for these reasons that you talk to the coach early and see what is expected from you when these things occur.

5. Ask the coach if he/she needs help. Being a volunteer coach can be an unbelievable task, and most coaches as a result are pretty open-minded when others offer to help in some small way. Perhaps you can help by keeping the books, compiling statistics, or assisting with fund raisers — or maybe you have a technical background and can offer to create a team webpage or blog. There are many different and important ways parents can help coaches, so be sure to see if your child’s coach could use a hand.

Dr. Chris Stankovich is a national expert in the field of sport & performance psychology and has assisted thousands of athletes reach their full athletic potential. He is the Founder of Advanced Human Performance Systems, and is known as “The Sports Doc” for his weekly segment on Ohio News Network (ONN). Please visit for exciting, easy-to-understand Peak Performance videos, audios, assessments, and feature articles.

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