You should always try to have a pre-season conversation with your child's coach no matter how long your child has been playing. In fact, many coaches have a short meeting for parents prior to the season. In either case, this the perfect time to get a sense of the coach's philosophy on such subjects as sportsmanship, playing time and practice, as well as the guidelines and rules followed by the league.
Some Questions For the Head Coach:
How many players are going to be on the team?
What is your philosophy regarding playing time?
What are your goals regarding winning, teaching the game and developing a fun environment?
When are the practice sessions?
How do you handle scheduling conflicts?
Have you coached players at this level before?
Do you have an assistant coach?
Could I help out in some way?
What's the best way to reach you in case I have more questions?
NOTE: Many coaches will schedule a specific time each week to call at home if you have issues to discuss during the season.
Once you feel satisfied your child is in good hands, give the coach some space and freedom. Allowing them to coach without feeling they have to look over their shoulder will give the coach the room he or she needs to provide a positive team environment for all the players.
One of the major lessons that playing on a basketball team provides to young players is tolerance and adaption to different styles of leadership. Allowing your children to deal with the player/coach relationship on their own will go a long way towards assuring that they benefit from those lessons. If a problem arises, you should be there for your child, but let things play out on the team level first.
Approaching the Coach With a Problem
Sometimes, a misunderstanding does occur. Maybe you feel your son is not getting enough playing time. Maybe your daughter is playing forward instead of guard. Or your child's team seems to be treating its opponents in an unsportsmanlike manner. Whatever the concern, consult the coach in a spirit of cooperation — NOT confrontation.
Some parents get upset and confront coaches in the middle of a game. Not only is this kind of action counterproductive, it embarrasses everyone, including your child. As with any other person, the coach is much less likely to listen if you get in his or her face.
If you do feel the need to discuss an issue with the coach, try waiting 24 hours and then call the coach at home (make sure you get the coach's appropriate contact number prior to the season). Try the following approach — "Coach, perhaps you can help me with a problem my daughter is having. You see, she's always preferred to play point guard, and we see that you have her playing forward. As a result, she is a little confused. Can you help us work through her concerns?"
If you address the coach in a nonconfrontational manner, he or she will most likely be happy to discuss the problem and work out a solution that suits everyone.
What if my Child Isn't Getting Enough Playing Time?
Once more, this is the kind of issue that should be brought up in a calm and private conversation with the coach. Ideally, the coach is keeping track of who's playing how much, and at what positions, during games. But if you and your child are convinced that he or she isn't getting a fair amount of playing time, then it may be time to talk to the coach.
In many youth leagues, there are rules regarding player participation. Prior to addressing the issue with the coach, you should be aware of any guidelines, if they exist. Your preseason conversation or meeting with the coach is the time to find this information out. If you did not, try calling the league director to find the answer. Once prepared with the information (for example, it may be that all players are required to play at least one-half of the game) you will be ready to speak with the coach.
Keep in mind, that with young players in particular, it can be confusing as to who's playing and for how much time. Coaches usually employ an assistant to monitor the playing time of each child. If there is any question about playing time, it's a matter of consulting the assistant coach's score sheet. If your child's coach does not keep track of this, offer to help out and assist the coach by suggesting to do it yourself. On top of helping you keep track of your child's playing time, it will probably help out some of the other players with a similar problem. And who knows, the coach may just surprise you and be happy to receive the help.