It’s tough to be a coach these days. Quality men and women who instruct our kids in sports and sportsmanship are resigning from their coaching posts left and right. They’re burnt out, tired of the drama and harassment, deciding it’s just not worth the pain anymore.
The pain of getting yelled at, criticized, defamed, even booted.
This past school year, my husband and I have walked alongside multiple teacher friends whose jobs were threatened—not just their coaching positions but their actual teaching jobs—because of disagreements over playing time.
The problem isn’t the kids. For the most part, my coaching friends say, the kids are eager and respectful. They want to compete and have fun.
The parents, on the other hand? There’s no better way to say it. They’re jerks.
Not all, of course—tons of parents still choose to champion their children’s mentors. And, granted, not every coach deserves championing. Sometimes we have legit reasons to express concerns over a coach’s approach, and it’s wise to advocate for our kids. But as a whole, most of our coaches have good intentions, and they got into coaching for a reason. They love sports and they love kids. We should at least allow that to be the starting place for our mutual respect.
Sadly, though, these days there are just enough bad-apple parents to spoil the whole experience. And when those parents decide to do everything in their power to run over a coach with their opinions and agenda, we all lose.
So let’s be the change we want to see in the sports community. Whether your child is on the top college-bound travel league or just entering T-ball, summer sports can be a positive experience for everyone—players, parents, and coaches alike. Here’s how we can make an impact.
- Teach your child sportsmanship—and model it. Do you want your kid’s team to win? Of course. But there are only two options here: win or lose. It’s a 50/50 shot, so some losing is likely to be involved along the way. Just as the Bible says suffering makes us more like Christ, we’ve got to concede that our kids can learn just as much (or more) from losing as they can from victory.
So yes, focus on building skills and strength and helping your child play with excellence since that too honors God. Yet in the long run, it’s wise to make character development our top priority. Character is a life-long endeavor. It will last much longer than skill. If we model “character first” at home and in the stands, our kids will have a positive example to follow as they encourage their teammates, respect their opponents, and find far more value in sports than whatever the scoreboard says.
- Actively encourage your child’s coach. Send him a text thanking him for his time. Shake her hand after the game, look her in the eye and tell her you appreciate her. Volunteer some of your own time to help with practices or fundraisers. Rally the other parents to collect a group gift at the end of the season. Invite your coach and his/her spouse over for dinner—then talk about something other than the lineup. This is especially important as Christians. Whether or not your child’s coach knows the Lord, a positive experience in hospitality from a Jesus-loving family can edify and/or witness in ways we may never realize.
- Give grace. Nobody is perfect. Not the coaches, not the kids, not the referees or umps. So when you’re tempted to heckle from the sideline or grumble to the other parents about what you think was a bad call, ask yourself if you’d want your own mistakes plastered across the jumbotron. Unless the answer is yes, find ways to process your frustration without pointing fingers.
This is super hard, I know. It’s in our nature to complain and demand justice. But remember Jesus has His opinions about this situation, too. “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:1–2).
Enjoy your summer, moms and dads. These days spent hauling lawn chairs to tournaments and tailgating with home-packed turkey sandwiches will fly by faster than we think. Let’s look at them as a God-given opportunity to invest in our families, teach the value of integrity, and share the kind of brotherly love that makes our Jesus proud.