How Sports Parents Nurture Winning Connections with Coaches

The parent/coach relationship is important for the sake of your child’s skill development and social development. However, it can be a tricky relationship for you due to two factors:

  • Your emotional investment in your child’s progress.
  • The complexity of issues a coach faces in making so many subjective decisions that affect your child and the team.

For these reasons, it’s best if you learn to do two things:

  1. Understand the behavioral style of your coach
  2. Help your child to understand that behavioral style

In general, coaches have a passion for their sport and for passing along what they know to young athletes. But they also have a passion for winning.

Good coaches see the obvious connection between developing skills in their players and winning competitions. Great coaches are also committed to the long-term character development of their athletes. You can best compliment the style and impact of a coach when you understand which element (skills, winning, character) is valued most by that coach. Use the chart below as a guide.

Ask Coaches Great Questions

Socrates got it right.

He taught his students by asking, not telling.  He posed a series of questions to help people determine their underlying beliefs. He wanted to know about their assumptions and their current level of understanding.  By asking really good questions, Socrates stimulated his students to think and make intellectual discoveries.  Socrates once said, “I know you won’t believe me, but the highest form of human excellence is to question oneself and others.”

The challenge here, for the sports parent, is to ask coaches effective questions – the kind that take you somewhere. Effective questions also make it possible for the person asking the question to learn more about the subject than what they actually asked for!

For the sports parent it's essential to ask your child’s coach questions that make it safe for the person being asked to think and to discover by way of sharing their thoughts, their feelings, opinions, ideas, and concerns. Effective questions are open-ended and cannot be answered with a yes or no.

Great Questions to Ask a Coach

  • How do you feel about my child’s progress so far?
  • In what areas of the game would you like to see my child improve?
  • What does my child seem to enjoy most about this sport?
  • What is your philosophy on _________________?
  • In what area should we encourage him/her at this point?

Before jumping into these questions with your child’s coach, start on the right foot. Follow a few simple ground rules that nurture the relationship, what I call Game Day Guidelines:

  • Discover in advance how and when the coach wants to communicate with parents.
  • Ask good open-ended questions through which the coach can share his philosophy, opinions, feelings, and facts.
  • Don’t accuse.
  • Give a coach space before competitions to focus on the game.
  • Let the coach do his/her job during the game without distraction.
  • Remember that after a competition the players come first and you are second in line for any attention or conversation.
  • If you have concerns or are emotionally upset, give yourself 24-hours of reflection before communicating with the coach.

Everything Growing Champions For Life does is to help sport organizations create the most positive learning environment for athletes, parents, and coaches. I have shared our strategies with stakeholders in many sports. If you are interested in learning more about our in-person seminars and workshops, webinar series or online learning program, I would love to hear from you.

Ultimately, winning is an outcome of great skills plus depth of character!

About the author

David Benzel
Sport Family Coach at

Founder of Growing Champions for Life, David helps sports parents and coaches incorporate positivity and persistence into their communication with the young athletes who count on their encouragement and guidance. An eight-time national water skiing champion, five-time national record holder in water ski jumping, former World Championship U.S. Water Ski Team coach, and proud professional sports parent, he understands first-hand the challenges and rewards of competition. His extensive experience as a corporate leadership coach for Nextel, Sprint, Allstate, Balfour Beatty, The Villages and other companies provides David with unique insight into the skills needed to excel in sports, business and life. He brings an athlete's discipline, a coach's inspiration, and a parent's practical experience to his mission to grow not just champion young athletes, but holistically well-rounded individuals equipped for lifelong excellence.

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