The Bad Coach: When To Give Up The Fight?

One of the things I struggle with is knowing when it is time to give up the fight.

We all know the bad coach. The guy who sees his young players as merely tools to feed his ego.

The kind of coach that tells a 7 yr old kid to not swing so he can walk a run home in a little league game when his team is already up by 8 runs.

The kind of coach benches 6 yr. old girls in a soccer game because he thinks he has a better chance to win without them.

You know that kind of guy.

When is it time to walk away? I am dealing with such a situation.

After you privately address the coach and he rebuffs you?
After you have politely emailed him addressing your concerns only to ridiculed?
After you have raised the issue to the league only to be ignored?
After the coach tells you to leave the team because he is not going to change?

When is ok to give up the fight? You know that the team will be worse for it. You know that the problem will continue.

Is it better to continue on in an attempt to act as some sort of check on this behavior or is better just to walk away thinking other parent's problems are other parent's problems?

I hate quitting in the worst way. My inclination is always to stay and fight. My daughter is largely unaware of any drama. Just my wife and I.

How do you know when to stay, even if only as a sign of defiance, or to walk away?

I hate this stuff.

*subhead*I hate this stuff.*subhead*


  1. It's not your job to police the coach's behaviour. When you've done your best, it's time to do what's best for your daughter. If she is not benefitting from this team, or if she is being harmed, it's time to pull her. The other parents can decide for themselves what's good for their kids. If I was dissatisfied with a sports program, I'd just pick another program.

  2. It sounds like you've already done your duty--good for you. Now I'd just move on and let it go.

    I remember a bald, thirty-something, pot-bellied man with ho muscle tone who was an assistant coach on my brother's youth football team. He was a bully and would just lay into the kids--attack their manhood for no reason. I wasn't a christian then, and it was all I could do not to plant the guy. Guys like that don't listen and you can't change them...

  3. Great post and great question :)

    First off, I totally empathize with your frustrations. I would love to echo your words when you state that those horrible coaching standards coming from a place of "Ego" (and more than likely from a place of hurt based on unfulfilled personal goals of the coach themselves).

    As a coach for many years I have had the privilege of supporting young athletes from the grass roots to the Olympic level of their sport. In my case it has been through the sport of Olympic Wrestling. Although, it is an individual sport as opposed to a team sport, (where we tend to hear stories such as you have experienced), coaches are still subject to this kind of behaviour. I am no exception.

    In my early days of coaching (immature when I ever had a parent call me on my intentions of why I made a decision, My first reaction seemed to always come from a position of defensiveness (how dare they question MY tactics).

    It wasn't until I had a parent that had the grace to call me out and ask me what my true intentions were for my coaching calls that he had query with. This particular parent always approached me with respect out of concern, not only for his child and the team but also for me as a coach and person.

    Over time (trust me...i'm sure for him forever), and never giving up, he eventually was able to ask me the right questions that challenged me to come up with the answer to truly why I made the calls he needed explanation for.

    The only answer that I could give him was "I made the call because I think it is best"...Note the Key word.."I"..

    After careful reflection and even some lost sleep..I came to the realization that coaching for 'I' was not being a coach at all, I was was coaching for ME and not the individual or the team. I slowly began to realized that staying open to all involved in the goals of the young athlete was the true coaching style I needed to adopt.

    This parent gave me a "check up from the neck up" and because of their grace, respect, and loving care for me as a coach in my brokenness I learned how to deal with the worst injury in sports "The dislocated EGO"

    In reflection, I understood that I would be doing the athlete, the team and the parent a disservice if I only made decisions based on my own opinion and knowledge. That is when I decided to adopt my coaching rule of "Letting My E...GO!" and became more open to listening to the people around me for support that I needed in order to properly help the young athlete grow in the sport that they loved to play.

    Stay strong!! Don't give up on that coach!! Continue to believe that this coach can change..maybe not this season, but maybe in later seasons. In the mean time..if it is called for you to remove your child because of lack of personal development as an young athlete in the sport...It is never a bad idea to seek out a new team :) Perhaps by doing that, it would be the beginning of a new found reflection of that coach wondering why you did that, trust me they may not admit it, but they will ponder that question. God Bless - Coach Corey

  4. Wise words Coach Corey. I would also start listening to the other moms and dads and the assistant coach around, I've stood up tp a coach before, even prepared to walk out with my daughter over the issue, it's not easy and it's one of those man who wants to be an adult moments. Prayers for him, prayers for you.

  5. I'd be more inclined to let my child finish the season, then look around for another team for next year. Apparently, the coach isn't killing her fun, so why upset yourself by trying to change a hardhead?

    You could also start another team, next year, and be the coach, or recruit another coach more in tune with your philosophy.

  6. I'd walk away in heartbeat - but if your child still enjoys it I might wait out the season. Some battles aren't worth fighting and there's nothing to "win" here.

  7. Make a bumper sticker and/or wear a lapel button that reads: "Sports—No kid left behind."... or something like "T.E.A.M. Together Everyone Achieves More", or "Hey coach 'N'... my kid learns by playing, not by sitting on a freaking bench!"

    Ok—maybe not the last slogan.

    When the going gets tough... advertise!

  8. As a former coach and mom: there should be a difference in both parents' and coaches' expectations for development teams and premier teams. I generally tried to make sure kids on development teams got pretty similar playing times. But at the premier level, people need to realize that the teams are trying to win. At a state cup tournament, I played all kids in the prelim games and alternated two goalies. When we found ourselves in the finals, the team asked me to go for the win and use the better goalie for the entire game. I did, we won, and all kids were happy. A coach should try to be fair, but keep the team's goals in mind. I have als been on the end as a mom and watched my kid sit the bench an entire game. It hurt. If my kid committed to a team for a season, they had to finish the season. But they didn't have to go back the next season. Let her decide.

  9. The problem is insoluble - you don't want to be a "helicopter" parent and you don't want to surrender all parental rights. Linda suggested the best response.

  10. What Linda said. If your daughter is blissfully unaware of the problem, there's no reason to pull her before the season is over.

  11. When I was a kid you were either good enough to play or you sat on the bench -- if you wanted to play you got better by practicing harder or you quit and found a team that you were good enough to get play time with. My dad made me make my own decision about it after fully explaining my options and what the consequences of those actions were. Sports are for fun but they should teach us real lessons about life. What lesson do you want her to learn?

  12. The case in question is 6yr old girls in a developmental program,

  13. Your prime focus should be on your child. If she's still enjoying playing and is not being negatively impacted by the coach's behavior, then chill. On the other hand, I can't help but think that every child on that team is being negatively impacted by the coach's behavior, because what they are learning is that winning at any cost is all that matters.

    We had a similar situation with our son's t-ball coach many years ago. My husband and I discussed it, discussed it with the coach to no avail, and then discussed the problem with our son. Then we explained why we were taking him off the team. He did not particularly mind. He moved on to YMCA-sponsored soccer with a coach who did not put winning at any cost as the primary goal. I've seen no adverse affects to our son. He's grown up with his head on straight and his priorities in order, and is a role model to many.

  14. At 6 years old it should be about fun but it should start being about winning. 'It's not about whether you won but did you have fun?" is nonsense. People who say this have never played on a losing team -- losing stinks. You work hard and practice hard to win -- not to just have fun. It is really hard to make parents understand that it is not right for the kids who work and practice hard in order to win to lose the game because of someone that doesn't work hard or practice hard but has to play because of the "everyone gets to play" rule. It is not about winning - you're right -- it is about working hard, being prepared, and doing your best and accepting the consequences of it. When you lose, you lose with your head held high knowing you did your best, and you win with grace and respect for your opponent. If I have a kid on my team that isn't as good as the others, but works his butt off in practice -- you bet I'm going to get him in the game. I will also sit the best player on the team if he goofs off and tries to slide by on his talent alone. Sorry for the ramble - but sports is about building character -- not about false self esteem or letting parents live out their fantasies through their kids.

  15. I've been pondering this and I must agree with Mendol.
    As the mother of two sons in their early 20’s - been there, done that.
    (FWIW - my sons went on to play competitively - one recruited for college and the other an assistant athletic director at a Catholic middle school).
    If your child is older than 7 or 8 and the problem does not involve true abuse STAY OUT OF IT! If absolutely necessary, move them after the end of the season, but I suggest you only do that once at the very most. It will teach them commitment, it will teach them problem solving, but most of all it will teach them about real life. They will have crappy teachers, obnoxious bosses and troublesome co-workers and they must do the right thing, perform at their personal best (even on the bench) and persevere in the face of difficulty. I have a friend whose daughter was pulled and moved from each activity and every time she encountered trouble. Her parents loved her and wanted what was best for her to “enjoy” her childhood and have every opportunity. Each time they said “just this once – it’s so unfair to her – next time it will be different and she’ll be the star!” They are now at wits end with an emotionally paralyzed college freshman who can’t live with a roommate, and can’t handle a B, and wants to come back home to mommy with no plan for a job or a future because she “just can’t take it”.
    Nope, I’m very glad my kids sat on the bench for a few jerk coaches and I sat on my hands and kept my mouth shut.


Post a Comment