Any tips to help an athlete “get through” a season when they are stuck with a bad coach (overly critical, aggressive, demeaning, etc) so they don’t lose their confidence?”
Yes. I often see athletes in this predicament.
The secret is in appreciating the fact that the difficult coach pushes you into seeking some help in building mental toughness and having the opportunity to practice it in real life.
I have run into many athletes who go through many years of “good” coaches and never develop that mental strength because they never really needed it.
And then, when the game is on the line or they finally do run into a tough coach, they fold from that type of pressure.
1. Aggressive coaches are to be taken as a wake-up call that there are such people in the world and that we all have to deal with them. When you get one, it’s time to get serious about developing your internal confidence to be able to thrive in such situations.
I once had a young soccer player come to my office, nearly in tears, tell me that his coach hates him. I asked him how he knows this to be true. He went into quite a bit of detail about how the coach yells at him more than everyone else, how he has been giving the other player more playing time for his position even though everyone knows he is the better player, and how the coach was making him do more laps, pushups and drills than the other players.
He told me how his life’s dream right then was to play soccer for a D1 team and that this coach was ruining it for him.
I listened intently the whole time with a sympathetic ear until he finally ran out of grievances to tell me about.
At that moment I almost jumped out of my chair with a bit of excitement and said: “That’s great! That is so awesome for you!”
You can probably imagine how the young man was in shock from me switching to being sympathetic to now cheering the fact that he has a bad coach. He even got a little angry with me!
I said: “It’s so great because….what if you had nothing but great coaches now and through high school until you got to your senior year and THEN you go the bad coach? And you aren’t prepared for how to handle it. Thanks to this coach, you are in my office and I am going to help make you the most mentally tough athlete out there by the time you get to your senior year. This coach is doing you a big favor!
And then he said my favorite words I love to hear: “I never thought about it that way.”
2. Athletes and parents of athletes: being stuck with a difficult coach can be interpreted any number of ways into a story. Tell that story in such a way that the experience makes you a better person for it.
3. Additionally, really demeaning coaches give the athlete (and the parent) an opportunity to learn how to stand up for themselves and draw boundaries by calling them out through successive levels of authority in the organization starting with the coach. Very valuable lessons for life can be acquired by working with a difficult coach.
Yes, I know it’s no fun being on a team in the midst of this. But guess what? Life is going to throw us all sorts of curve balls like this. Things aren’t always fair.
4. Parents, this is your opportunity to connect with your young athlete and help them through it. Give them useful perspectives and help them see a bigger picture or a longer term view of themselves.
5. Learning that sports isn’t just about having fun. Young athletes understand that because they willingly do drills and practices that AREN’T FUN to prepare for competition . You would be surprised how some kids can step up under tough circumstances.
6. Can the kid stuck on a bad coach team get himself fired up and vow to prove the coach wrong by working even harder? See Michael Jordan’s story.
7. Can she focus more on making friends with the other teammates and discover how to be a great cheerleader or inspiration for the others?
8. Can you help a young athlete learn the value of “patience” in such a situation?
Nothing is bad except the thinking that makes it so.
One season with a bad youth sports coach does not make or break a career…or a person.
Bad youth sports coaches, although it’s certainly not fun, can be a huge gift if you’re willing to see and accept the gift.