In Coaching: Good/Bad/Unfair, Problems in Youth Sports

Hey Coach….What’s wrong with me? You told me before I joined the team that I’d be your number one guy, that I’d start in my position. The whole team played really bad in that first game, yet you benched me and then didn’t play me for two whole weeks! What’s wrong with me?

You told me to keep working hard and that when I played well I’d get my starting position back. So I believed you and really busted my butt. After I finally got a chance to get in, I had the game of my life. Everyone told me I was brilliant, even people who were unrelated to me. You didn’t say word one to me about my play, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! It was like I wasn’t even there in your mind, and then you proceded to sit me for the next two weeks, no explanation! Coach, What’s wrong with me? Didn’t you think I played well?

The other two guys who are getting all the playing time aren’t any better than me, and in fact, one of them is obviously much weaker. There have been games where their mistakes have cost us a win. Coach, that’s not me saying this. That’s a number of my other teammates and a lot of the parents on the team who watch the games. Not even my parents. I can’t tell you what my parents are saying about you because it’s not so nice. How come when these two guys mess up, you let them keep playing? You’re more patient and encouraging with them. The minute I do something that even resembles a mistake, you bench me and then ignore me. Hey coach, what’s wrong with me?

Coach, I train really hard. I take the sport seriously. I do everything that’s asked of me in practice as hard as I can. I do extra training every day at home. I lift weights. I have a dream. I want to play at a higher level, maybe in college, maybe even beyond. But you never play me. You rarely give me a chance. You never talk to me. You never give me any feedback, positive or negative. I’m starting to lose my self-confidence. How can I feel good about myself when you don’t believe in me? Coach, what’s wrong with me?

I’ve tried talking to you, but all you do is repeat the same things to me over and over again, like a recording. “Keep working hard. If you work hard your game will improve and when you play better you’ll get the start.” Coach, I think you’re not being entirely honest with me here. I’ve been working hard. I’ve played much better in those rare games when you’ve given me a chance. Yet, you still don’t start me. Coach, what’s wrong with me?

I’m starting to feel like it doesn’t really matter what I do now. You bench me if I play poorly. You bench me if I’m great. You don’t notice how hard I work in practice. You never talk to me. I thought a coach’s job was to motivate his players, give them corrections and support, and help them reach their potential. I have to admit that I’ve been struggling with the question lately, ‘What’s the point? Why bother?’ Coach, what’s wrong with me?

So I think I’ve finally figured it out. I’ll admit though that I’ve had some help because as a 15 year old, it’s really impossible for me to have a good perspective here. All this time, I’ve been thinking that it was all my fault. That I’m just not good enough to play for you, because if I was, then you’d play me more and talk to me more. Because of you, I’ve been believing that the dream I’ve had all of these years is a joke and that I don’t really have the skills to play at the next level, despite what all of those other coaches have told me in the past. After all, if I did have the skills, wouldn’t you support those skills, encourage me and play me more?

So the real problem isn’t really me coach, it’s YOU! That’s what people have tried to get me to understand. They’re telling me that there’s something wrong with YOU, not me. They tell me that good coaches don’t play favorites, that good coaches can communicate with their players, that they continuously provide their players with positive as well as constructive feedback, that they inspire and motivate, that they are honest, that they have the courage to deal with their players directly, that they have some sensitivity to what it’s like to be a 15 year old struggling with adolescence and a sport. They’ve been telling me that really good coaches make kids feel good about themselves, that they build, not tear down self-esteem. So everything that they’ve been telling me makes me wonder. Coach, what’s wrong with you?


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