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Issues, Problems, and Concerns

Organized competition has always generated controversy over questionable actions on behalf of players, coaches, and teams. Many of these issues are ongoing, and will be problematic for coaches throughout their career.


Of all the factors demanding attention of coaches, studies show that the ones that coaches struggle with the most are:

  • Parents

  • Attitudes of athletes

  • Discipline

  • Drugs abuse

  • Officiating


Each situation is unique so these problem areas might vary somewhat from school to school, but not likely very much.


Parents of Athletes

It's interesting to see parents reported as the top concern, and it's discouraging at the same time. This is the crowd that should be the coach's biggest supporters, not one of the biggest problems. Parents will get involved one way or another - the coach should get them involved early his way. This website talks a lot about parent issues. Click here for how coaches can work with parents, and click here for parent education.


Here are some comments from high school coaches to illustrate problems with parents:

- Parents often impose unrealistic expectations on their children and the coaches.

- Parents look to place blame on the coaches for their children's lack of success rather than admit these children simply are not great athletes.

- Parents have verbally attacked the coach after a game.

- Parents operate on a 4-1 plan in basketball. That is, they want you to play the four best players plus their own. In baseball it's an 8-1 plan and football it's a 10-1 plan.

- Parents often question coaching decisions regarding the starting lineup, substitutions, and strategy.

- Parents who are unhappy with the coach often take their complaint directly to the principal, athletic director, or even the superintendent rather than discussing the matter with the coach.

- Parents' main concern is their child's playing time - or lack of (which is the eternal problem).

- Parents frequently take the side of their children in a dispute with coaches - even though they know only one side of the story.

- Parents criticizing a coach in front of their children put the kids in a bad position between coach and parent, which can cause serious problems.

- Parents blame the coach for not getting their youngster an athletic scholarship.

- If parents get angry at a coach, they will probably stay angry as long as the coach is in that position.


Now, let's not make the mistake to say that a parent should never complain to, or about a coach. Verbal or physical harassment, language abuse, swearing, and mental abuse are intolerable. These are the situations in which parents should immediately get involved. Playing time is a conversation that a parent can have with a coach, but about their player only, never about another player or comparing athletes. Game strategy is up to the coach, and the coach only. 


Attitudes of Athletes

Athlete's attitudes continue to be a large concern among coaches, as the following comments apply:

- Youngsters don't have realistic goals, sometimes because of pressure they get from their parents.

- Their work ethic is poor.

- They have no drive or ambition.

- They lack dedication and commitment.

- They quit easily if they aren't on the first team, aren't playing a lot, or are getting scolded by the coach.

- Their main concern is for "I" and "me" rather than the team.

- They lack self-discipline.

- They lack mental toughness.


It is a good bet that there is a strong connection between these attitudes and the parent problem. As the old saying goes, "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree."


Booster Clubs and Sponsors

Think "puppet master."

If boosters and sponsors are done the right way, they can be a great asset to any coach or team serving many purposeful functions, such as providing financial support to the team and coach. However, often big donors feel they have the right to call shots for the coach regarding who to play and how to play the game. These organizations may feel as if they should be able to make decisions regarding how their donated money is spent, how the program will run and, in time, who the coach should be.


Booster clubs typically consist of four kinds of people: those who have a general interest in school athletics, those who have a special interest (parent or grandparent of a player), those who enjoy being on the fringe of athletics by associating with the coaches, and the sharpshooters who are frustrated with the coaches.


Specialization - Competing Sports

Let's be clear on these 2 points - sport specialization prior to high school hurts young athletes and when an athlete commits to a team, the athlete has committed to that team - missing games or practices because of another activity is unacceptable.



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