An informed sports parent is ready to make the most of his child’s youth sports experience. He’s ready to support, encourage, volunteer, and guide his young athlete through the ups and downs of the upcoming season. If you know the answers to these six questions before your child starts the season, then you are an informed and prepared sports parent. If not, don’t take anything for granted, take the time to get to know your child’s coach, either at the parent meeting or in a one-on-one conversation.
Question #1 What made you decide to coach?
There is not necessarily a right or wrong answer to this, but if a person decides to coach just because his kid is playing, be aware that he may struggle with objectivity. Hopefully, he is also coaching because he loves and knows the game.
Question #2 What is your philosophy on playing time?
Coaches will say their philosophy in vague terms, like “We try to play the best and still get everyone in the game.” But if you can get them to explain that it might better prepare you for what lays ahead. For instance, “We play to win, so the best will play and if we can we will get everyone in the game. But I cannot make promises.” Or, “We want to win, but we believe every player should get equal playing time and we make a concerted effort to see that this happens.” Whether you agree or not, at least you will know what to expect.
Question #3 What are your policies on absence and tardiness to practices and games?
If a coach doesn’t have a policy on this, perhaps this will force him to establish policies and consequences for tardiness and absence from games and practices. This is important because he will then be held to following the rules for every player. If your child violates that policy, you know how he will be held accountable.
Question #4 Do any of the coaches have first-aid training?Are the coaches trained to know the signs and symptoms of concussion?
Don’t assume that the coaches are all knowledgeable and prepared; they may be last-minute volunteers just like you. Insist that someone on the staff have proper first-aid training.
Question #5 What are your emergency medical plans and procedures?
First and foremost, coaches should know how to provide the warmup exercises and stretches to avoid injuries. However, if an injury occurs, is your coach prepared for injuries or emergencies? He should have a properly stocked first-aid kit at all practices and games and a designated person to call 911 and/or the EMTs (someone who has the proper cell phone coverage plan and can be depended upon to get through in an emergency). Has he considered having an AED (automatic external defibrillator) on site or nearby for cardiac emergency? More and more schools and youth sports programs are providing one.
Question #6 What is your philosophy on kids playing hurt?
Will the coach promise to always put a child’s safety ahead of winning? Believe it or not, there are coaches who are so bent on winning that they may be willing to risk the health of a player. For instance, he may ask a star QB to go back in the game even though he shows signs of concussion or ask an ace softball pitcher to stay in the game even though her shoulder is in pain. Perhaps you shy away from asking a lot of questions or you may simply be assuming you already know the answers. But when it comes to the wellbeing and health of your child, it is your duty to ask the important and hard questions.