Q: I’m nervous that my daughter’s teen soccer coach is a little too intense. She insists that she’s happy, but sometimes at practice the coach seems harsh with her criticisms of the players. I know tough coaching is part of playing on more competitive teams, but what are the red flags for a coach who might be going “too far?”
For years, on our regular Sunday morning bike rides to the (old) Rose Cafe, my husband and I used to pass the same soccer practice on a strip of grass along the bikeway. Each week we would comment on how military-like and harsh the older coach seemed with the group of little boys, no older than 5 or 6.
Each fall, a new batch of novices gathered and was subjected, it seemed to us, to this sergeant’s rigorous, harsh practice routine. I used to wonder if their mommies and daddies knew what a bully the coach was. They were nowhere in sight.
But here’s what else we noticed: The boys seemed to be having a blast. They were all in.
All-age kids’ sports today are not what they used to be. Competitive sports are king. I certainly don’t remember parents of old trying to position their children as college sports scholarship material, let alone pushing their kids to find a sport about which they are passionate!
Then there are the Lonzo Ball or Tiger Woods type of parents who are on a mission to create the next great whatever. Sheeesh! And there are the kids who put the pressure on themselves, taking it to crazy extremes.
(Forgive my corniness, but what about playing just for fun? But that’s a different topic.)
I have no idea if your daughter’s coach is too harsh or if your daughter is happy. You are right to ask what the signs might be. Consider the following:
Is she having trouble sleeping?
Are there any changes in her eating habits and appetite?
Is she behaving normally, like she always does? Any changes there?
Is she unusually moody? (She is a teen, after all!)
Is she unusually sensitive? (She is a teen, after all!)
Is she picking fights with you (more than she normally does? I repeat, she is a teen!)?
Is she fighting more than normal with her siblings?
Is she having more than the normal number of issues with peers?
Does she ever resist or complain about practice (besides the normal)?
Does she complain about her coach? (This one is tricky. She might be on her guard, as she knows your feelings and doesn’t want to fuel them.)
And finally, might your daughter be trying to please you, not disappoint you by complaining or even dropping out?
I am hoping that you have a relationship with your daughter wherein she feels safe and as comfortable as any teen can, to be able to share her feelings. If that is the case, I think you have to trust that she would let you know if she wanted out or needed help. I can tell you for sure that typically, I come out against a parent getting involved with a teen’s coach.
Beyond saying something like, “Wow! You sure have a tough skin to be able to take the pressure coach puts on you, to say nothing of the tough comments he makes. I know I would wither,” or “I trust you would let me know if soccer gets too tough on you,” I suggest you stay close and be loving and more supportive of your daughter than of soccer.