Guest Author - Lori Collvins
One of the hardest parts about coaching is having to deal with fans and parents of your basketball team. Here is some advice about what to do and what not to do.
What to do? Listen to them.
What not to do? Listen to them.
Okay, now that I have everyone's attention and (possibly your anger), let me explain. Parents and fans are going to talk to you and that is just the plain and simple truth. After all, you are the one in control of their child/team in whatever way they are involved in the sport of basketball. Some are going to praise you nonstop and some are going to gripe at you nonstop. You will hear questions, demands, suggestions, compliments and much more as a coach so be prepared to deal with these things.
What to do? Listen to them. When someone has a complaint, the least you can do is listen to it. In fact, you really don't have a choice in the matter but surprisingly, it might to your benefit to do just that. How you respond will make a big difference in your relationship with them and possibly with the child also. They may have a suggestion for a warm up or a play. In fact they may have a good suggestion but you may have heard so many things over the years that you automatically ignore them while appearing to listen to them. And you may just miss the chance to try something that really works well. Many coaches have been doing their jobs for years and ninety-nine percent of the time, there is nothing that they haven't seen or heard but there is always that one percent. The one percent that might be the idea you have been searching for that will make the difference in winning or losing a playoff game. The longer you coach, the harder it is to keep your mind open to new things but someone is coming with new ideas and new plays all the time, so make it a point to let yourself be open to suggestions. If you are the type of coach who thinks that an idea will only work if you come up with it yourself, then frankly, coaching is going to be a hard job for you. If you ever stop learning as a coach, you might need to think about doing something else. Basketball is a game that is constantly changing in an effort to improve the sport, a coach should be the same way. I am not saying if something works for you, that you should do something else. I am saying keep your mind open and listen, listen to your team and the parents and fans. The rewards may be much better than you ever thought they would be.
What not to do? Listen to them. I do understand that there are people out there that will complain constantly and about things that cannot be changed. For example, why are you not playing my son/daughter more? Well the truth may be that their son or daughter is one of the most uncoordinated children you have ever seen but that doesn't change the fact that he/she is close to perfect in their eyes. Do not take these things personally or you will end up hating the job you are doing because of the stress. If you feel like you have to respond, which you should, then try to do it in a way that encourages them to get their child to practice more. If you find you cannot deal with this particular person because nothing you say satisfies them, then you may have to avoid them altogether but only if absolutely necessary and only if it because the situation IS not changeable and not because you have your mind "set" and that is that.
Being a coach is a tough job, especially if you take things personally. Tactfulness is a priority when dealing with people. I personally do not like to see a coach who gets mad if you make any suggestion at all or ask him why he does something a certain way. It is arrogant and unprofessional. Besides, maybe they can see what you have missed in a players potential. I have seen it happen. A coach has to be able to see the potential in even the most uncoordinated player on the team, or the player who is the best one on the team but has the worst attitude. And in small school, this is especially important because you have a much smaller "pool" to choose from. In a small school, the coach will probably also have more responsibilities besides coaching, so your work is harder than in a big school. But being able to take someone who runs like a baby deer or has as much control as a high pressure water hose that's going every where is much harder but much more rewarding than sitting back and letting the pieces fall where they may. You cant just rely on what talent you have when you walk in the door. You have to work on what talent you CAN have the next time you walk in the door.
In dealing with parents and fans, professionalism is a must. There are some great coaches out there and some horrible coaches, just like every other aspect of the game has great and horrible participants. So if you want to be or you are a coach, then coach with your heart in the game but don't forget to use your head. Do the best job you can in the best way you can and that in itself will make people easier to deal with. If they respect your attitude, they will respect you.
See you on the court!