coach and kidIf you’d asked me that question at the beginning of my sports parenting journey, I would have said yes, absolutely! But 21 years of sports parenting and 28 years of being a coach’s wife have tweaked that answer just a bit.

There is no question that coaches should be fair in how they treat kids, but what does it actually look like when a coach treats every athlete fairly?

What is Fair?

Fair is defined as freedom from bias, dishonesty, or injustice.

Fair means that a coach is always honest with his players and parents.

Fair means that a coach doesn’t hold biases–better known as labeling someone–against players just because of something he may have heard or because of who the athlete’s parents or siblings are.

Fair means that every kid has a chance to prove himself.

Fair means that the team rules apply to everyone equally.

Fair means that coaches and players should treat each other with respect.

What Fair is NOT

Fair does not mean that every athlete–we’re talking higher levels of competition here–gets equal playing time.

Fair does not mean that every athlete gets to play the position he wants.

Fair does not mean that every player will be treated the same.

I came to understand this after several years of being a sports parent. More than once, I felt my kids were treated “unfairly”.

It happened to my oldest daughter when she played softball. Her high school coach chewed on her about her mistakes more than he did some of the other players.

My son’s varsity football coach harped on his mistakes constantly while ignoring the mistakes of some other players.

And my youngest daughter’s volleyball coach was always hard on her. There were days when she felt like he disliked her, even though we knew that wasn’t true.

I was lamenting this “unfairness” to my husband-coach one day when he told me that coaches often push certain kids harder–kids who they feel have more potential, who can handle the pushing, and who sometimes just need a figurative swift kick in the butt to get them to work harder.

Hearing that coaching perspective didn’t help me like the “unfairness” any better, but it did help me understand why some coaches treat players differently.

As a parent, I also understand that all kids don’t respond to the same treatment. A form of discipline that works with one child may not phase another. You know your child and you know what works best for his good.

If your child’s coach is fair–as I defined above–give him the freedom to manage the team in a way that will help each child perform his best and reach his potential, even if it looks like he’s not treating everyone the same.

Janis Meredith, sports mom and coach’s wife, writes a sports parenting blog called JBM Thinks. Get her latest ebook “Football Mom’s Survival Guide” just released in July.

photo credit: I’ll Never Grow Up via photopin cc