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The impact of the Laxhole Parent

I coached for a few years and remember an awkward conversation with a Dad who was asking for more playtime for his child who was a cusp player---sometimes great, frequently out of position, but not in the top rotation on the roster. We discussed the possible improvements to be made, and as weeks went by, nothing improved. Week after week, Dad came to ask for more playtime. As we transitioned from rec to club, it was difficult to keep everyone happy. I dreaded the conversations with Dad, and even though I tried to be objective, the constant requests almost ensured that more time would not happen. it just highlighted that skills weren't improving. Probably unfair, but club isn't fair.

Fast forward years later to travel teams with a definitive pecking order with play being purely merit-based. Positions are won, and teams start to recruit to win---with most coaches no longer interested in effort, just results. Some look ahead to game IQ, athleticism over skill, and even look at the parents to see what junior might end up growing into. But in the end, if you can't help on the field, you won't see the field.

So the big question---do Laxhole parents who complain and "advocate" for their kids hurt their long-term chances in their positions? Do coaches see some parents as disruptive and not welcome in their kingdoms, where loyalty and harmony (and a steady checkbook) are preferred? Or, if your child is on the cusp, does speaking up get him or her at least another look, or a couple more minutes playing?

I had a conversation with a coach who said that even though they like certain kids, when their parents are nightmares, they will cut the kid to shed the drama. Or worse, they will pad the team bench with disgruntled cusp players, or the practice squad (can you imagine paying thousands of dollars a year to only practice?) The very thing some of these players need to get better---play time--is the one thing they won't get. Moving down to B level to get playtime would be the best thing for this player, but the status lost from leaving the A team is just too much to give up.

So, what is our role as parents for star players, for cusp players, or B players?

We've seen the prima donna talent whose parents shop them for a better team, who try to recruit other families and who demand certain things for their star. They want more touches, more shots, more time. We've seen the shopper parents for the cusp player as reggieliette mentioned in the forum---always looking for a better deal. Hopping from team to team searching for a coach who will see what they see and reward them with play time. And then there are the B-player parents who don't see the skill level or athletic mismatch, scolding and comparing their child to others, and hoping against hope that they child makes that A-team. All painful. And all understandable.

One of my least proud moments was sending statistics on my goalie son to his coaches. He was competing for a starting position against two other kids who were pretty good. Not much difference between the three of them. I of course thought my son was better than the other two. I kept stats like shots on goal vs saves for a few games. Became clear who the top two kids were. The third kid left (his Dad was another Prince of Laxholes) when Dad started his own team, screaming all the way down the road. We ended up starting on another team, and the top kid ended up the backup soon after. Each ended up where they should have--cream rises and milk curdles when things heat up.

How often does this "active engagement" negatively impact the player from the coach's perspective, and does it ever help? I don't think it's something most coaches will pull aside a parent to discuss. Just slowly pull away, and find someone to replace them at the next try-out. We have all heard about "coachable" players, but perhaps we need a term for parents---"mute-able"?

As kids get older, many coaches will suggest that players self-advocate. That is tough advice, but in the end, probably the most useful. If your player can walk up to that scary, almost god-like figure, and ask why they were missed in the rotation, or even talk about how they can improve, it will mean so much more to them and to the coach. And even better, if they go out and make an impact after asking for that time, it will cement their place in that coach's mind. Its got to be their quest, their discussion, not yours.

For Laxholes like me, and probably like others you know, it is almost impossible to just hit mute.

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