Every day active kids are getting injured either within the context of their sport or from an accident that happens outside of practice or game time. These injuries can be severe ones that will keep them out of their sport for a few months. Other injuries will only have them sidelined for a week or two. Aside from the obvious question of “When can I go back?” one of the other frequent questions is “What do I tell my coach?” The parents are also concerned about the coach’s response and reaction to their child’s injury. How can a parent and athlete navigate this discussion?
Approach Discussions with the Right Mindset
A coach’s job is never an easy one. Most coaches are volunteers that don’t see any form of payment for the hours that they spend helping young athletes learn and play a sport. The job is also a stressful one! They have to work with parents and athletes that can be demanding at times and often very critical of the job that they are doing. Parents definitely need to remember these things when initiating any discussion with a coach—be it about an injury or a problem that they may have with how things are going on a team.
Rely on Teamwork
It is important for the parent, athlete, and coach to all have a discussion about the injury together. This way the parent or older child can explain the diagnosis and how long they are expected to miss. If it is a minor injury, they can help the coach understand what the athlete may or may not do at practice. It is helpful to get a note from your physician explaining in detail what the athlete can and cannot do. Coaches have often seen lots of injuries. However, they are often not medical professionals and will not feel qualified to decide exactly what your child should be doing as they recover.
Don’t Push an Injury
What happens if your child’s coach is pushing them too far despite an injury? We hear lots of stories about coaches making kids do things despite an injury or despite significant pain. This is a time for parents to intervene. Young athletes often have a difficult time advocating for themselves when it comes to pain or injury. They will push through because they don’t want to disappoint a coach. The parent needs to ask to have a meeting with the coach to discuss what is going on. It is never in the best interest of an athlete to push through pain, and the coach needs to be aware of this. I always encourage athletes to speak up—but it can be really hard! The coach is an authority figure, and some athletes don’t want to lose a spot on a team or a chance to play in an important game or tournament. Having the parent there to discuss can help give them the confidence to talk about what is bothering them and come up with a good plan for everyone.
Communication Is Key
The most important thing to remember with all parent/coach/athlete interactions is communication is key! Let them know when your child has appointments, talk about timelines, and talk about ways to keep kids involved even if it is from the sideline.