The Coach is Treating My Child Unfairly!

By Brian Gotta, President of CoachDeck

Is there anything that gets us more nuts than our kids’ sports? As a coach and a parent, I’ve been on both sides of the fence. I’m sure many parents on teams I’ve coached believed their kids should have been getting more playing time or opportunities at different positions. And I’ve watched my own children being coached by others and felt they were being treated unfairly. The following comments were found on a blog about unfair coaches. You be the judge as to whether these parents are over-the-top, or have legitimate gripes.

My son is in baseball 10 year-old division. He is a pretty good player and was pretty much recruited by this team however now he is being played mostly in the outfield while the 3 coaches kids are always in the key positions. I would like to know how to deal with coaches that are all out for their own kids and who give other kids very little playing time in key positions. We have also experienced this situation with football. My son was in tears today because he played the whole game in the outfield and never gets to pitch and this is why they asked him to play on this team based on his pitching skills. We have tried making comments and subtle hints but it all goes ignored. Also, one of the coaches is VP of the league. I would love to hear from other parents who have experienced this and how they have handled the situation. Thanks!

Baseball is such a subjective game. Is it possible the 10 year-old isn’t as good as the coaches’ sons? I’m sure the parent who wrote this doesn’t think so. But who knows unless an impartial observer evaluates all of the kids on the team. And even then, two different impartial observers may come to two different conclusions about who should play and where. One thing I offer as evidence in cases such as these however is that it is likely the coaches do want to win. And wouldn’t the child in question be pitching if he were really a “difference-maker” who would help?

My daughter is 11 years old and has been playing on competitive basketball travel teams for 3 years. Her coach for the past two years has been getting more and more unfair. Once the frustrating travel season was over she wanted to try out for an AAU club team. She makes the team and we find out at the first practice that her travel coach is coaching the team. I should have opted for her not to play. But she loves the game. There is not a moment she doesn’t have a basketball in her hand. Now I give all coaches the benefit of the doubt, but in this case I am done!! She has been in a starting position all season, but the minute she makes ONE mistake he pulls her immediately and puts in someone who makes continuous mistakes. He puts her back in and does the same thing again. Meanwhile all other starters make mistakes, including his daughter and he leaves them in! I have had other parents come up to me and ask why he is picking on my daughter.

The “I have other parents coming to me and asking why my child is getting treated unfairly” card is common. (Folks seem to offer this as incontrovertible evidence that an injustice is occurring.  Because if a parent whose own kid is competing with mine for playing time feels my child is getting cheated, it must be real, right?). In this case, I would only say two things: Could it be you are looking harder for mistakes in others than in your daughter? Is there a chance that I might watch the same game as you and see far more mistakes made by your child than you do? And again, I’m guessing this coach wants to win. If your daughter could make a significant difference in this regard, wouldn’t he play her more?

Our high school soccer coach is ridiculous. He loads up the team with 20 to 24 players, has 3 assistants, and then ignores most of his bench. I could understand if the starting rotation was really strong, but there are many players who are no better than anyone on the bench. I find it unbearable to sit thru games when my child is just sitting on the bench. This child is a good athlete who plays on a top club team.. I just don’t understand why these coaches can’t be honest with the players. They expect respect from the players; why can’t they show respect to the players?

As you know, teams carry more players than they can play at one time. Yes, in a perfect world, all kids get an equal opportunity to play in the game. However, the higher our kids go in sports, the less the emphasis is on fairly distributing playing time and the more it is on winning. You say that there are many players who are no better than anyone on the bench. What is the basis for that comment? Are you at every practice to evaluate this? Are you a professional soccer coach? I understand it is “unbearable to watch” your child sitting on the bench, but that doesn’t mean she deserves to play. The coach did keep her on the team. Would you have preferred she was one of the players who was cut?

I have been crazy with stress, anxiety and anger over the coaching situation at our high school. My son is a junior on the Varsity baseball team. We are 5 games into the season and he has not seen the field. He is a far superior player than the SENIOR that is playing in front of him. Several parents and other coaches have asked why our son is not on the field – all while the player playing has error after error. I want to go “have it out” with the coach – but fear retaliation by the coach toward my son. He is an excellent player with a 4.0 GPA – not to mention a great kid!

I’ll bet they’re all great kids. We all think our kids are the greatest. Baseball, soccer and other team sports are extremely subjective. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. My children all played or play baseball, soccer and football and often they were starters and the stars of their teams. But there have been times they’ve been part-time players or even been cut. Guess what? When they were the stars of the team, I thought the coach knew exactly what he was doing. When they weren’t, I believed the coach had political motives and/or was an idiot. I may have been right in both cases, but I also may have been wrong. I joke that if I was doing it all again, my kids would run track or swim – something where results are not an opinion but a fact. If my child came home complaining that she wasn’t in the meet tomorrow I’d ask her, “Was the other girl faster than you? OK then, if you can go faster than her, you’ll be in the next meet.” No way for politics or nepotism to enter the discussion. Just a stopwatch.

The bottom line is that sure, there are politics, there is “daddy-ball” there is unfairness and even coaching stupidity. Yet as you can see from the comments here, there is also a lot of emotion that might cloud our objectivity as parents. If you really feel your child is in a bad situation, you can always go somewhere else – even in high school or college. If we’re talking about volunteer coaches, you can  step up and take the helm next season. Sometimes change is what’s needed. But there’s no guarantee that the grass will be any greener on the other side.

Brian Gotta is a former professional recreational youth baseball coach and volunteer Little League coach and board member. He is President of Help Kids Play, a collection of companies whose mission is to further the development and enjoyment of youth sports.

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