But, My Other Coach Says....
A coach that you take your daughter to for hitting or pitching lessons is instructing your daughter to do something one way, while your other coach is giving completely different instructions. So what do you do?
I have been through this situation personally many times. This may be one of the most difficult and frustrating things you will encounter over the years, especially if all the coaches really seem to know what they are talking about. It is far easier to deal with if you believe one of the coaches to be less knowledegable than the other. However, it can still cause issues between you and your daughter's coaches, especially when you both have strong opinions on the matter.
In either scenario the biggest challenge is deciding how you and your daughter should handle it.
Why You Sought Additional Coaching in the First Place
At some point you decided to take your daughter to another coach for additional skills instruction, whether it be for hitting, pitching or defense is irrelevant. You felt that your daughter needed to be taught how to do something that she was either struggling with or not being taught sufficiently. So, you sought out expertise in an area, which you probably learned of through word of mouth from another parent, player or coach. And you likely pay for this instruction, which adds even more anxiety into the situation.
The First Question to Ask Yourself
Before you can make an intelligent decision on what you should do, you must first ask yourself one question: What is working for my daughter? This is really the only thing that matters. Every other concern is a matter of politics. Like it or not, life is political and this includes softball at all stages. I can give you some advice on how to handle your coach, but cannot guarantee a path to utopia. You have to decide if and how you will confront the coach whose instruction you'll be bypassing. And as the fine print often states, "Your results may vary."
What is working for my daughter?
Yes I said, "If you should confront your coach." There's nothing wrong with avoiding the situation entirely if it is possible to do so. If the coach is less demanding or non-confrontational, he or she may just accept that your daughter is going to perform certain skills in her own way and leave it at that. I have seen this many times where a coach seems to think to his or herself, "Well it is working for her, so I'm okay with it."
In a situation where your daughter's alternative methods are either not working satisfactorily for your coach or they are dead set against the use of such approaches, you will need to have a talk with him or her. Adults ought to be able to have intelligent discussions or debates about such matters. If you're fortunate you will be able to come to some sort of agreement as to which methods your daughter uses to perform the task at hand. Maybe you can persuade the coach to allow her to continue the other coaches way unless she fails to make progress or is performing inconsistently, which then you agree to do things their way?
Regardless, you should have this discussion privately and without your daughter present.
However, a friendly debate might not be possible if the ego of the coach prevents them from doing so or if their experience has taught them that your other coaches way is wrong. If it boils down to the coach explaining to you why he or she does not like a particular method and can back it up with examples from their personal experiences, then you'll have a tough decision to make. Making matters worse, your other coach may be able to make the same argument based on their experiences. In those cases I have actually seen girls performing tasks both ways depending on which coach or team she was playing for at that moment. This is common for girls who play travel and high school softball as there is often a general mutual disrespect between the two groups of coaches.
I have also seen cases where the girl and her parents had such heated arguments with coaches over which coach to listen to that they were dismissed from the team or the parents pulled their daughter off it. You'd like to think it shouldn't have to come to that, but it happens. It's just one of the reasons you'll see teams looking for players who were supposedly all-set after their tryouts completed.
What You and Your Daughter Should Remember
A pet peeve of mine is how players and parents sometimes talk to their coaches, which almost always puts the coach on the defensive and can be seen as condescending and disrespectful by the coaches. Does your daughter frequently tell her coach, "My other coach said I should do it like this."? Sooner or later the coach is going to grow tired of hearing this and basically stop trying to teach your daughter anything or treat her in a less desirable manner, which could lead to that more emotional confrontation I previously mentioned. A better way to handle this may be for your daughter to explain to the coach, "I've been practicing it this way and am really comfortable with it and it is working really well for me." A good coach may request your daughter demonstrate her method and if executed successfully give her their blessings to do it that way.
The bottom line for me as a coach is helping the girl be the best she can be, which is what you would hope other coaches to believe too.
A Coaches Perspective
I've been coaching at various levels for years now. The golden rule applies to coaches too. Treat them as you want them to treat you, with respect. There are certain skills I teach where I will not waiver on my beliefs such as fielding footwork and throwing mechanics. However, my experience has taught me to be somewhat flexible and creative when it comes to hitting. That's just part of my evolving philosophy concerning coaching as I've mentioned before, "Learning about the game never stops".
If I feel strongly about changing a girl's methods on a particular skill, I first show her my way. If necessary I will explain my reasoning to her parents. For any parents who feel that their daughter should do it differently from my way, that's fine. The bottom line for me is helping the girl be the best she can be, which is what you would hope other coaches to believe too. However, if the girl continues to underperform or make the same mistakes repeatedly, then as a coach I am in a no win situation. And at that point, as a coach what are my options? And I think that question would be helpful for parents to keep in mind.
Questions or Comments?
This is a topic that could fill several chapters in a book. I've just scratched the surface on the matter and did not even get into the situations of abusive or non-caring coaches. So what are your thoughts on the mixed messages from coaches? Let me know by email, Facebook or Twitter.