June 4, 2012

Parents- A Coach's and Teacher's Nemesis

Pretty harsh, huh? To be honest, I'm pretty fed up with parents right now. If I am ever fortunate to have a child of my own, please throw this blog post in my face and rub it around, okay? When I was in college, I had a lot of professors, but very few that I crazy about. One of the chosen few was Dr. Little. The guy was just awesome. He was a retired elementary teacher, and was well-known for giving education students the "nitty gritty" about our soon-to-be profession. One of the things he always said was, "Get parents on your side!" Hhhmmm.... yep, and there's a reason for that.

It seems that a good, balanced parent is hard to come by. You either have parents like those of my students- Um, hello???? Where ARE you????? I've left you five voicemails this week, and you choose not to respond. It's the same parent that when you suggest the child is not working to his/her potential, they say, "Well, as long as they're passing..." DOH!  OR...

You have the parent I experienced this past weekend. It's a well-meaning parent, one that wants her child to be successful, supports her children in every way. It's the over-the-line behavior that has to go. I usually do a very good job at channeling this type of parent. You can usually get to them to help in a positive way by assigning them volunteer tasks and thanking them endlessly. If you are a thorough and organized teacher/coach you can avoid a lot of potential problems. If you communicate openly with this parent, that's a good thing, too. Let's fast forward to the meat and potatoes of this thing.

We registered 38 kids for our first track meet with WINGS, hosted by the AAU. This would be my first experience with this organization, and I was really excited. We caravan to the meet Friday night, arriving late, but not too late for a visit to Pizza Hut with the kids. I'm usually one that hates chaos, but something was really awesome about our team taking up half the Pizza Hut at 9 p.m. at night. The next morning came early, and the meet started right on time. Right off, our kids were doing AWESOME! We had such a big group, and someone was placing in nearly every event! The 100 and 200 were pretty chaotic. The REALLY small kids had divisions in this, and many didn't even know what the term "lane" meant, haha. I somehow found myself helping organize this; I think because the AUU officials became overwhelmed and weren't used to working with small children. We eventually had the kids sit in a circle AROUND the lane number, while they waited their turn to run. I suggested to officials to maybe have a piece of rope out there for kids to hold onto in line next time. Kind of like leading cattle to water. Hahaha.

Then we have the problem-causing race, the 1500. A lot of it was probably my fault, as I'd been referring to the 1500 as "the mile." In the high school races, we never race 1500, only 1600 (a mile). I had spent a lot of time teaching the new runners the distances of track races, and I can totally understand why she wanted to run 4 full laps. The 1500 starts at the 300 mark, and athletes run NEARLY 4 laps (100 meters less). When the lead girl from WINGS got to the finish line, she ran right through it to the start line. Smart girl had been listening when I said a mile was 4 laps. :) Once she got back to the start line and stopped, a volunteer thought she was dropping out and started yelling at her to keep running. And that's how you run a 5 lap race for the 1500. :O Then... all my other girls followed her. DOH!! There you go, a completely screwed up 1500 race. I decided to wait until there as a break in the events, and I approached the meet director, who assured me that they results would be adjusted to show when the kids finished the ACTUAL race, not including the extra lap. Thank goodness for modern video finishing technology! Well, when they called out the awards for the race, they used the times that included the extra lap. The parents were irate! I told them not to worry; I would try to talk to the meet director again. It was pretty important that the times get corrected, as the results are used for seeding of the next 2 meets and possibly the Junior Olympics. I approached the meet director again, and she told me that after the meet, she would look back at the video and adjust the times. (This seemed completely reasonable to me; obviously they can't WATCH a video that is still recording races.) I relayed this to the parents and thought everything was cool. Um, WRONG!

I was down at the check-in tent, helping the younger ones get their lane assignments and doing some last minute coaching when a parent came RUNNING towards me, motioning for me to come to him. He breathlessly points to the center of the field at the officials' tent, and I see that mom over there going totally bazerk on the meet director and meet officials. Keep in mind, no one is even allowed inside the fence to the center of the field; therefore she just barged right in! I ask the parent to stay with the kids about to race and jog towards the commotion. By the time I get there, she is gone. I'm not sure if she has been kicked out or what, and frankly, I have NO CLUE what to do. I look around and her child is still there; so I know she couldn't have gone too far. I decide to call the main boss, but unfortunately, I can't reach him. Here is when I decided to just take care of *this*, whatever *this* might be. I was pretty irritated at this point. See, we were having a great day. Frankly, the kids didn't care that much that they had run an extra lap. The understood what happened and believed me when i said I would try to handle and get it fixed. Why could the parent not have that same attitude? He display of bad behavior also really chafed me b/c i felt like she was not being a good role model for the young athletes. Like I told the kids, sometimes races mess up times; sometimes they mess up awards. It happens. It's okay to be upset by this, but you always have to conduct yourself respectfully and the sole focus of the race results should be your progress in the sport, and focus on what you'd gained through that experience. So... I went to find that over-the-line woman and was ready to have a firm "chat" about her behavior.

When I found her in the parking lot, she was yelling at someone else on the phone. I stood kind of far away until she was finished with the phone call and waited for her walk back. She immediately apologized, but then in the same breath defended her actions stating the obvious- they had messed up, blah, blah, blah. I kind of lost my nerve. I had wanted to give her a big piece of my mind, but instead I just told her that I would appreciate it if she followed the rules of the meet and stayed OFF the infield. I also told her that I would handle the athletes' timing situation, and promised to my best to get it fixed. She agreed, and I just walked back in quickly as to avoid further conversation.

To be honest, that kind of put a damper on the rest of the meet. I pretty much avoided ALL the parents. I went back and forth between our team tent and the check-in area, making sure the athletes were in the right place at the right time. I also stood by the finish line and watched SOOOOOO many great races. Young athletes are just adorable. If you've never watched a kids' race, put it on your to-do list. Nothing beats those sweaty smiles when they finish running hard.

I wish I had it in me to write about all the amazing things that happened this past weekend. I would tell you about all the wonderful children and all their efforts on the track. THIS is just what has been weighing on my mind in the days following the meet.

I absolutely LOVE working with children. It's been my passion for as long as I can remember. I also love running; so coaching is a perfect combination for me. It seems as though I have some work to do in the adults department. How do you work with adults that have different views on what is best for their child? In this situation, shouldn't it be obvious that throwing a tantrum gets NOTHING done, except embarrasses the team?

Why is it hard for some adults to trust teachers/coaches on what might be best in the situations they have been trained to handle?

If you were me, what would you have done? Seriously, all advice welcomed.

Oh, and after the meet, as promised, the fixed the results. :)


  1. Oh man, that sucks a lot. I would have done exactly what you did - charged off, then lost nerve when she initially apologized. For a lawyer, I suck at confrontation in any other area of my life.

    Don't forget how awesome the rest of the meet was, and how great your kids are! You are a wonderful coach and those kids are so lucky to have you! Your job is to teach the kids, and it sounds like you are doing a great job at that. The parents...well, they aren't your job. ;) I'd just try to let it go.

  2. Oh man, that sucks you had to deal with that. Sounds like a great group of kids, and it sounds like you are super happy with your coaching overall. Hopefully this blog helped you get it off your chest and you can move past it!

  3. Anonymous6/06/2012

    Why we gotta deal with silly parents? They should do their job and leave us alone to do ours.

    Hang in there! I hope another parent encounter does not happen again.


  4. As a parent I am shocked at how some parents behave at the elementary school age. I imagine it only gets worse with age. You are amazing for dealing with the crazy parents in a responsible way.

  5. Surely the 1500 was a mess- and I do the same thing- call it a mile. :)

    There are some REALLY big jerks out there. People who think NO one can do ANY job as well as they can, and it sounds like you have one of those parents on your team. I would have a hard time dealing with a parent like that. Honestly, you had more guts than I would at even talking to her afterwards. My guess is that this was a very educational opportunity for the RD/race host. Having a parent come up to them like that might have prompted them to make changes for next time.
    Those kids do need better examples, but maybe this was the situation where they saw how YOU handled it (You sound professional) and saw angry mom, and noticed which method was classier. Just keep on being classy. The right behavior will get noticed.