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Why and How Athletes Can Have Tough Talks with their Coaches

Having a tough talk with your coach doesn’t have to be a stressful, scary thing. Whether you want advice on how to get more playing time or you’re having a hard time with a teammate, these conversations might feel like a train wreck in the making, but they can go smoothly with a little thought and preparation.

Here’s what TrueSport Expert and President of Now What Facilitation, Nadia Kyba, MSW, wants you to do to have a great talk with your coach.

Do it yourself

It’s tempting to have your parents or caregiver call your coach for you, but learning to talk to adults about tough topics is important and sport is a great testing ground. A trusted adult or your parents can still help you work through what you want to say, but you should be the one asking the coach for a meeting. Of course, if you feel in any way unsafe around your coach or are uncomfortable with something happening on the team, you should definitely tell your parents or another adult!

Make a plan

You can always ask your coach for a meeting via email, but specify that you’d like to meet in person or talk on the phone. One sentence about why you want to meet is plenty—save the specific details for your talk so you don’t accidentally end up having your tough conversation via email. Face to face or over the phone is better. Say something like, ‘I’m hoping to get some feedback, can we meet to talk about it?’ in your message.

Plan your ‘ask’

Think through what you want to say to your coach. Do you have examples you want to bring up, or certain questions you want to ask? What are you hoping to achieve by having this meeting? Often, we skip this planning stage and end up in meetings unsure of what to say. Write your thoughts down and bring the notebook to the meeting. Not only will you be prepared and less likely to forget anything important, the notebook shows your coach that you’re taking the meeting seriously. It also gives you a prop: When you’re nervous, you can pause for a few breaths and collect yourself by glancing at your notes!

For even more success, think about what you want for yourself—like more playing time—but also think about what that would mean for the team. Your coach will appreciate that you’re thinking about the good of the team, not just your own interests.

 

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