How to have “the” conversation with your child's coach

The title about says it all. We have all been there as parents or coaches; the feelings of disappointment, anger, dejection] , blame, confusion or any and all of the above. You have spent time, money, and resources, which are in short supply, to hone your child's skill level. You have signed them up for all the expensive camps, personal coaching, and travel teams that you could afford so much so that you gave up the pool in the backyard or the trip to Disney World. You just cannot understand why your child is not playing or even staring in a role that so many others “guaranteed you.” We are going to spend some time today talking about some steps that you can take to effectively have that conversation with your child’s coach or even to make you feel better and insert a different perspective into things.

1.    Understand that your child's coach, more than likely at the high school, level is an educator first. A vast majority of coaches today have received some formal training on how to deal with children and adolescents effectively. It is illogical to assume that coaches would be awarded playing time for any other reason t than what THEY perceive to be their best option to win. In my over 20 years of coaching, I have yet to come across a coach that was purposely and willfully not playing someone that was markedly better without reason.

2.    Coaches today just like you: they are all strapped for time between family commitments, job requirements, requirements of the team, and the responsibility of overseeing a staff of coaches as well as a team of 30 or more athletes. While your child takes priority in your life as it should understand you and your child are part of a much larger and more complex unit.

3.    Playing time, especially in football, is not always clear cut from an outside perspective. For example, your son may be the fastest kid in 9th grade, but that does not mean he starts at WR; there is more to it than that. Can he block? Can he catch? And, here is the big one, can he remember the plays? Many NFL players have had careers stalled because their ability to cognitively obtain and interpret information was not on par on with the expectations.

4.    Sitting in the stands and speaking negatively about other players or coaches on the team will work against you. I can assure you that comments that are made, always make it to the person they are intended for. Keep in mind you never know if you are sitting near the QB you are criticizing for not getting your son the ball. It could also be the parent that overhears your criticism. We as parents must set a positive example for children.

At this point, let's discuss some ways you can positively address your coach if you are still seeking answers.

1.    Start with your child first. Before you involve the coach, ask your child how they are performing in practice. Athletes are usually pretty honest. Ask them if they feel they are outperforming other players at their positions consistently.

2.    Email the coach to ask for a few minutes however best they would like to communicate: whether by email, text, phone, or in person. Keep the conversation strictly on your child. For example: “Coach, what does my son need to work on, in your opinion?”

3. Understand, when a coach answers your questions, do not expect numbers. For example, it is unrealistic to expect a coach to say your son is consistent catching 67% of the passes thrown at him in practice. There is not the time nor is it reasonable to expect those answers. Coaches see performance every day in practice. They know when a child is ready to play more and when they are not. Keep the conversation on your child, on the progress they are making, and the progress you both would like to see over a period of time.

4. In the game of football, almost every position on the field demands a level of physicality and aggressiveness. Blocking and tackling are still the fundamental aspects of the game. If your child struggles in those areas, it is very difficult for their playing time to increase on the high school level. This is especially true with teams with a large roster. This does not mean they cannot improve over time, but from my experience, generally, the athletes who are more physical or more aggressive will play more.

If a meeting does take place, understand that what you see and what your child's coach sees may never be exactly the same. But, each of you has to share the same goal of wanting what is best for your child while also helping to improve the team. Teamwork and sportsmanship not only are played out from the locker room, but they also need to be played out between the coaches, parents, and community.



How to handle the off-season for youth players

A youth football season usually starts at the end of July, but we are starting to see more young athletes training all year round. For some athletes that are not as active during the year, it can take some time to shake the rust off. Also players new to football should try to prepare for the rigors of the season by becoming more active as we approach the start of the season.
Preparation isn’t just about camps and practices during the summer, but also about strength and conditioning and how to get a young athlete’s body ready to handle the demands of a rigorous season.
“Many of the young athletes that we see today have a very good skill level based on the increase of offseason football work. But,  we need a greater emphasis prior to the season conditioning. We want our athletes’ bodies to be in shape in terms of, not just strength, but also cardiovascular health”.
This generation of children is not as active it was  years ago, which increases the need for preseason or even offseason conditioning.
“Society has changed, the days of kids getting their offseason exercise from riding their bikes; playing outside until dark has been removed. Our society today is focused on technology (phones, tablets, video games, and social media) as leisure activities. I think it is crucially important that our athletes are ready for the season in more ways than just an increased skill level or cognitive ability”.
Let's discuss five ways you can help to get your athlete ready.
● Participate in body weight-based activities. Children can use their own body weight as resistance through squats, pull-ups and, push-ups along similar exercises.  
● Strengthen the Legs Squats, plyometric jumps, one-leg leaps, and balance activities all help to provide the base for where athletes will get their strength.
● Explore movement through different levels and pathways. Agility drills, obstacle courses, competitive races (against a partner or time). Run over obstacles, run, and bend under them. Football is a game played at different speeds and movement patterns.
● Play multiple sports. Playing other sports will utilize and strengthen different muscle groups, but more importantly, it will continue to build the competitive nature in your child.
● Run. There is nothing better than good old fashioned running to help get in shape. Distance running is not helpful for training football players. Instead focus on 10-50 yard sprints; with adequate rest between each sprint. You can use a jog (a ¼ mile or less) as a warm-up and cool down.
As with any training program, start small and gradually increase over time. For young athletes who have never trained before, it is always a good idea to consult with your doctor prior to starting the regime.
“By doing a well-rounded set of activities from different exercises, to different sports, not only does it make your child more well-rounded athletically, but it also will lessen the chance of overuse injuries when focusing solely on football-specific drills.”
Keith Croft is the Head Football Coach at Bishop Hendricken High School in Warwick, RI and Owner of the Elite Football School, RI.
Over the last 9 years, he has guided his team to a record 8 state championships. He also owns and operates a football school that consists of summer camps, group workouts, and coaches’ clinics.
He can be reached at