That extra mile might just be the solution to playing time complaints and concerns.
A common criticism that is made about coaches who don't have children is that he or she would be a better coach with personal parenting experience. Others think that if coaches have children, especially those who play for the same club, the coach cannot give proper training because of favoritism.
From my personal experience, I believe that having this parenting experience has helped me think of different ways to help my own players improve.
When my daughter started playing volleyball, I was a parent first and later became a coach. During my last 10 years of coaching while my daughter was playing, I worked with different coaches as their assistant, and also served as the head coach.
Additionally, I sat on the bench of my daughters’ team when someone coached her. During that time, I had minimal communication from my daughters’ coaches, which made me wonder why we coaches avoid parents. If I had not been part of the coaching staff, I would have had no idea about the philosophy of my daughters’ coaches, expectations and what to do when problems were raised.
While sitting next to other club coaches on their benches during games, I would sometimes hear how either a nonperforming player was lazy or that his/her parent was the problem parent in their team. There was no consideration for what was going on in their players’ lives, how aggressive or passive their parents were regarding their playing time or if they were having some other issues at school.
The kids were labeled without knowing anything about them. Some coaches evaluate the kids in tryouts, directors make decisions about which players end up on teams and we work with kids without knowing anything about them.
When I started being a head coach, I remembered one thing that my daughters’ kindergarten, elementary school and middle school principal did which left a lifetime mark in our lives. My daughter was 2 and a half years old when she started attending Greensboro Montessori School (GMS) in North Carolina.
After couple of weeks of her attendance, the principal reached out to us and wanted to visit our home to get to know our family. During that time, he learned that both my wife and I were music teachers in Turkey and found out which instruments we played.
My dad was an elementary school principal for many years, and I remembered his approach to his students and parents was very similar; however, he never went to his students’ homes to get to know the parents. My daughter attended Greensboro Montessori School for 12 years, and during that time the principal was always there and we felt our daughter was in good hands.
When the time came to go to high school, we had some difficulties in the choice of school. The principal guided us in getting her transferred to the desired school through orchestra, knowing our music background from that visit 12 years ago.
Instead of him becoming "just" a principal for couple of years, he became a lifelong teacher and friend to our family. I remembered how I felt when he helped my daughter. I decided to apply the same principle to my coaching style to become a lifelong friend, teacher and coach to my players.
Putting Lessons to Work
In 2013, as soon as I had my team assignment, I reached out to each family before Thanksgiving and started meeting with each of my players’ families, including their pets. I went to their homes to understand their lifestyles, their family relationships in their own home environments, and observed the sibling and parent interactions.
My goal was to get to know them as much as possible in their homes. When they preferred not to meet at their homes, we got a cup of coffee at a nearby location, still requesting all family members to be there.
Before my visits, I decided to request a personality test from each player to see what type of person I would be working with on and off the court. I dove into the idea of understanding/analyzing players’ personalities along with their athleticism to see how groups would react to each other.
In our family meetings, we discussed what type of personality the player had and what type of personalities were on the team to understand how to reach and utilize their best abilities through the way they saw the world. Some players were very outgoing, some very organized, others were talkative or shy. Some managed the drills with minimal instructions while some required detailed instruction to perform drills.
When we were in tournaments, the team policy was that all team members must stay together until the last match. Per their personalities, some players required "me time" to regroup their thoughts. I gave them that time which resulted in better performance in games.
This approach gave me great tools to build good relationships between parents, players and coaching staff. Parents knew I cared about their daughters both physically and mentally, so when they had some concerns or worries, we always had very smooth dialogues and conversations. Players felt closer to the coaching staff knowing we genuinely cared.
Both parents and I were always on the same page knowing what I expected from them and their daughters. I made them feel comfortable reaching me anytime because I went the extra mile to get to know them and their families. That extra mile might just be the solution to playing time complaints and concerns.