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Deflections - What do parents say?


Is what parents say about the coach important?

That depends:
On the thickness of your skin
On how reflective you are about your coaching (if you’re reflective at all)
On the relationship you had with your team’s parents
On what was the objective in getting their feedback
On what they’ve said in the past about coaches
On what they think they know about coaching a minor hockey team
On what you think they think they know about coaching a minor hockey team
On the – perish the thought – possibility they could be right about some things

The parent of a boy I coached once took me to task on how I approached his son in the room about his pre-game preparation. This occurred in front of other parents at a general “how’s it going” gathering. Believing it wasn’t such a big issue as he made it out to be and since he got the somewhat tilted story from his son, I took it in stride. Some other parents backed me and ripped into him. Later in the season, he did tell me that while I was a very good coach, he didn’t at all agree with what I said to the boy, which was, “Are you getting ready for the game as I’ve asked you to?” 

It could very well be that for years this parent may trash me because of it. Oh well.

Early in my coaching days, with a high level bantam team of marginal ability, there was a boy who was a major troublemaker. At 14, he was already known to local police. His dressing room behaviour and language were an issue that I took to his dad. I figured parents could be mature and objective about a kid they knew was a problem. Ah yes, the naïveté of my youth. 

Turned out the dad was a large part of the problem. He was a jerk. He lambasted me for mishandling his son and made a couple of subtle threats. I backed off, turned tail, and didn’t deal with the kid again that season on anything other than his play. That summer he was arrested for breaking and entering. The point is, I should have considered the source.

Frankly, I do consider parents’ opinions important. But not about how to teach a skill or tactic, how to design a drill or practice, or whether we should employ a particular type of forecheck. It is important to listen to them and have frank dialogues about their kids. Parents though need to understand that, in most cases, minor hockey coaches aren’t professionals at either teaching or coaching. Coaches do what they can with what they’ve got.

One question: how civil can each party be in the sometimes-volatile world of children’s sport?

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