A Coaches Balancing Act

I married my basketball coach’s son. Yes, while this makes for a fun, juicy love story it isn’t my leadership message for today. I do, however, want you to see how close I am to the coaching world. I live in a coaching family, I was a coach, and I was a player who was coached from elementary school through my college years. As a parent, I have enjoyed being a spectator for my children’s sports, and I enjoy observing the relationship between a player and their coach.

I have always been amazed by the balancing act that is associated with the career of coaching other people’s kids. Right or wrong, there are 3 P’s that influence a coach’s world:

Players, Politics and Parents.

I think we’d all agree that the players should be the No.1 focus for the coach. Adding pressure and competing with this focus are the politics of who makes the team and who gets cut; who starts and who sits the bench; the win loss record; grades, practice time, and commitment levels, and so on. Then, yes, I’ve saved the best for last: the parents. Well, I am one, so I figure it’s politically safe for me to open this can!

I get so aggravated when a parent tries to step in and put peer pressure on the coach to make decisions in a way that the parent sees fit. Yes, yes, yes, of course I’ve been tempted to coach the coach, but only because my three kids are perfect in every sport they’ve ever played! Ha-ha!

Reality check! I’m not the perfect parent, and I’m not the perfect leader. Yet, none of my kid’s coaches have ever come to my place of work to give me advice on how I should do my job. So why do us parents feel it’s our place to give coaches our opinion in their place of work? Worse yet, how does it make the kids feel when there is tension between their coach and their parents?

Our coaching experience in the office isn’t much different. There are still 3 P’s:

Players, Politics and Peers.

It’s a balancing act to juggle these P’s. I put some quick thoughts behind each of these P’s in an effort to get us thinking as coaches, parents, and leaders.


Our first responsibility is to our players. Let’s reflect on what that means.

Are they learning and growing? As their coach, do they perform better under my daily guidance? When the player leaves my department, company or court, are they better off skill-set wise? Are they more confident in themselves as a person? Will they impact others based on how I impacted them? A player will replicate based on how they were coached. Am I worth replicating?


Politics are alive and real in every organization and in every school system, so lets learn to deal with it. We should operate in a way that protects our team while keeping our standard in place. Learn how to be more flexible, so we can bend without breaking. In other words, “give in” when we can so when we can’t it’s more likely to be accepted.

Parents and Peers

We need to form strong relationships with our players so they can help influence the parent and peer trap. Communicate often. Many times people just want to know what’s going on. What is the plan? Help prepare our peers (or parents) by sharing our goals, strategies, and key actions that we’ll take to move in that direction. How can others serve towards the common goal? If they want to be involved, give them assignments that will help the team move towards the goal. Be clear that as we work together it must benefit the team… not an individual. Decisions should be made in the below order.

Does it help the company (school)?

Does it help the team?

Does it help the individual?

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