Hey Coach,

My daughter is playing volleyball with the local recreation league, and she feels like she is not getting a fair chance to show off what she can do. I have attended practices and in my opinion, I believe that the coach favors her daughter over my own. While I understand that this is only rec ball, I want her to have the same opportunities as everyone else. What is the best course of action?
– Sidelined

Dear Sidelined,

Unfortunately, this is a common concern. The child feels left out, the parent questions fairness, and there may be a (real or imagined) reason for unfair treatment. While I don’t know details of your situation, the solution is straightforward. Understand your role, and play by its rules.

In every youth sports program, there are three roles for individuals: Athlete, Coach, or Parent. Each role has rules to abide by. Conflicts occur when one (or more) of these individuals either don’t know their role, or break the rules.

  • Athlete – Learn the game, be a teammate
    The athlete is there to learn – about the game, about teamwork, about competition. Good athletes are focused on growth, not glory.
  • Coach – Be the authority, teach the game
    The coach is there to lead and teach. Some lessons are about skills, some are about winning, some are about sacrifice. Good coaches are good educators with strong vision.
  • Parent – Provide context, model conduct
    The parent is there to monitor development, and is a counselor in both good times and bad. Good parents make sure the athlete has the emotional tools to deal with success and failure.

Your best course of action is to first provide your child context, then to model conduct. In this case, context is to remind your daughter that her role is to learn and contribute, not to get too caught up in play time. Once she understands her role, then you can model conduct for how to address a concern properly – meet with the coach to understand how play time gets allocated. Be calm, professional, and focused on developing a path to success. Most coaches will appreciate the discussion and be happy to provide an answer.

Of course, there are some coaches who don’t know their roles very well. In a parks and recreation volleyball program, your coach may be a parent in disguise. If so, the best course of action is to seek out a better coach or program in the future. Ultimately, the best way to determine the quality of coach is to model correct parenting behavior – your athlete will learn their most important lesson from you.

– Coach Grant

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