Sports Parents, Try and Receive Coach Feedback with an Open Mind

By Dr. Chris Stankovich

Want to know one of the fastest ways to help your child improve in sports?  The answer might be simpler than you ever thought — listen to the coach! While this advice might sound like common sense, I find that a good number of parents disregard coach feedback.  Some parents have told me that the coach doesn’t know the game, plays “politics” with their kid, or doesn’t have the same acumen and expertise as their personal coach.  While it is true that the feedback a coach provides isn’t always fun to receive, often in life we only truly improve our situation when we face the real problems that hold us back.

Let down your defense

Sport parents today invest a ton in their kids through time, money, and travel.  With such an enormous commitment and hope for future success, it’s understandable why some parents spin, deflect, or flat out deny that their child needs to improve in the ways the coach suggests.  Sure, it doesn’t feel good to hear that your child is performing below what he or she is capable of, but often coaches can provide the specific tools necessary to help your child improve.  Try instead to see the advice as important and positive, not threatening and designed to make you feel bad.

One of my more common clinical observations over the years, and a good explanation of why some young athletes fail to live up to their potential, is that kids and their parents sometimes refuse to face and respond to their shortcomings.  Instead, they tend to practice even more on the things they already do well.  This is understandable, as it’s easier to do what you already do well, but this approach also prevents kids from becoming more complete and talented athletes.

Use an ‘active listening’ approach

When the coach has feedback for your child, try using an active listening approach in order to gain the most from his or her advice.  Listen patiently, ask for clarification when things are unclear, summarize what you are hearing so the coach can correct things, if necessary, and encourage the coach to continue sharing his or her thoughts by remaining positive and open-minded.  When you interact with the coach in this manner, you will soon find that you are both pulling in the same direction, and that your child will be the benefactor of you and the coach working together.

What you should try and avoid is negative body language, arguing, refusing to listen to the coach, or flat out telling the coach he or she is ‘wrong.’

Final thoughts

The coach can be one of the most invaluable resources parents can use as they work to help their kid reach his or her full potential.  Similar to receiving feedback from a teacher, it’s important to be respectful, listen closely, ask questions for clarification, and offer thanks afterwards.  The sooner your child identifies and works on his or her greatest weaknesses is the moment important growth can occur, and this progress is often a result of working closely with your child’s coach.

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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