Before you commit, ask your child’s coach these 5 questions
By Brian Sieger
So your young athlete wants to play hockey. Good choice! If you’ve done your research and found out all you needed about local programs, you might think you’re ready to go. But there are a few more things you should know. Here are five questions you should be asking your child’s coach:
1. How Do You Handle Playing Time?
This is a tough subject. Some coaches only want their best players on the ice, while others will play everyone. As players get older, the former is probably going to be the case.
No matter what the age, no answer is wrong or right. The purpose of asking the question is to understand the coach’s philosophy. Nobody wants their kid to sit on the bench, but that situation is a lot harder to accept if there is no indication it might happen from the outset.
2. How Will You Communicate With the Parents?
We all want to know when our kids are doing well, and your child’s coach knows that. When the lines of communication are open and parents are kept in the loop, crazy behavior is far less likely to occur.
Make sure the coach is willing to keep you updated. Be sure to ask exactly how frequently they will communicate with you. As an example, I tell all my parents I am open to any questions or concerns they have. However, before, during or after the game are not the appropriate times. I tell them to let me know they want to speak, and we will set up a mutually agreeable time to do so.
3. How Do You Develop Your Players?
Trophies and winning are great. But the most important thing for your young athlete is improvement. If your child is not getting better, their playing days will be short. Be sure that the coach has an interest in your young athlete’s development.
The specifics of the answer aren’t really important. What is important is hearing that the coach has an answer, specifically one which includes individualization, not just team-think. All young athletes have different strengths and weaknesses, so the program has to incorporate room for individual development.
4. How Do You Deal With Commitment Conflicts?
For the overwhelming majority of young athletes hockey is a game, not a career. The occasional conflict with a practice or a game is unavoidable and, in my opinion, healthy. If it’s all hockey all the time, burnout becomes a real risk.
Look for a coach who allows some flexibility. I’m not talking about continual scheduling conflicts here (e.g., “Derek has swimming every Tuesday so he can’t make practices or games that night.”). That’s an entirely different matter that you need to discuss with your child’s coach before either of you commit.
I once asked the head of a soccer program my son was trying out for how they handled two-sport athletes. They answered, “We have lots of players who play two sports. The sooner we are aware of schedules, the better we can plan. But the kids don’t miss soccer.” I knew right then and there we weren’t going to play on that team.
5. Are Practices Open to the Parents?
It’s a huge concern if practices aren’t open to parents, unless there are special circumstances (e.g., indoor practice with limited space). It makes me wonder if the coach is hiding something or is insecure about playing time. It also gives me pause about how communicative the coach is going to be when the season actually starts.
As a parent, I enjoy watching my kids play. I want to know what they work on at practice so I can reinforce what the coach teaches. As a coach, I want parents to understand the same. Here’s a secret: Parents have much more impact on their young athletes’ development than coaches do. That’s because if young athletes only practice at team practices, they aren’t going to improve much.
Asking questions before you commit can help ensure you put your young athlete in an environment that is right for him or her. It should be a red flag if your child’s coach doesn’t answer them or if their answers are not what you and your young athlete are looking for.
Brian Sieger is a father of two, husband, volunteer coach and author of the blog 8U Travel. This article originally appears on TeamSnap.com. Published with permission.