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Thread summary:

Coaching advice; seeking information on discussing issue with mother of special needs child on co-educational 6-7 year old basketball team, no coaching experience, volunteer only, mother thinks there is discrimination

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Old 12-16-2007, 02:08 PM
 
1,031 posts, read 2,101,528 times
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Maybe you all can help me with a problem (I hope I posted this in the right spot). I have 2 seven year old girls. They are totally oposites in their likes and interests. This past summer, my "youngest" 7 year old wanted to try soccer, so we signed her up for the Y league (6 and 7 year old co-ed team). I ended up coaching the team even though I didn't have a lot of experince with soccer rules and such. We didn't win a lot of games, but the kids had a lot of fun, and I had a lot of fun working and playing with them. Their parents were all very supportive and I got a really nice thank you card and gift at the end of the season.

This fall, my older 7 year old wanted to play basketball. Again we signed up for Y league (6-7 year olds co-ed team). This time it was a bit different. The kids are great and try really hard. We only have 45 minutes a week to practice and play 1 game a week. Most of my ten players have never played basketball, or on a team. I even have a 5 year old who is very small. I also have at least 2 kids (probably more) that clearly have some type of attention and focus issues. Mostly they all have problems dribbling, passing or even grasping basic basketball skills or rules of the game. Anyway our games are fun and we don't even keep score. Our rules are that everyone plays the same amount of time, and those that do not start one week starts another. I follow these rules even though other coaches do not. Everyone plays and everyone plays the same amount of time. (I rotate the players at each quarter). I'm active on the sidelines, but I never ever call out any player for any reason. In fact I do just the opposite. I urge them and cheer them and I really am their biggest fan. I do coach them, to play up or play tight or focus (which is an issue with kids this age).

I do my very best, and up until this weekend was having a lot of fun working with them and coaching them. After our last game, I got a piece of email from a mother one of my players (definitely a special needs kid). She told me how disappointed she was with the season and that the way I was handling her child was really bad and that she has to "pick him up" after every game. She went on and said the he has played on other Y teams and she has never had "problems" in the past. I was shocked, stunned and totally blown away by this. I'm just a volunteer, I have no training on how to work with a special needs kid. The mom has never approached me about her son, and if she hadn't had a conversation with my wife at practice, I would have not know about any problems (other that what I have observed). Her mail was not specific on the things that she thought I did, nor did she ever give me any tips on how to work better with her son. Previous to the mail, I've tried to engage her in random converssations at practice, like I do with all parents and she is very stand offish, almost to the point of being rude. At the last game, when it became the kids turn to go in, he would not go. He said he was tired and didn't want to play again. I urged him to go, but he wouldn't go. He did this one time before, and she told me he was on medication, so I thought it might be the same issue. I only have about 30 seconds between periods to get the lineup out on the court and get moving, so I can't argue with the kid and I subbed another player. I think his mom thinks I benched him, but I really didn't. I can't belive she dumped this email on me right before the holidays. It is really bothering me and at this point, if my daughter was not playing I would resign from the team. I love working with kids and I love coaching even though I am not a professional coach. I spend a lot of my own time, and some of my own money working on increasing my knowledge of the games and how to make it a more interesting and worthwhile experience for the kids. I am also the only "dad" volunteer at my girls elementary school and I know when you volunteer with kids, you open yourself up for stuff like this, but it truly has hurt me really badly. I passed her mail to the Y directors that handle kids sports and I have not responded to her directly and have no plans to. My wife wants to have a talk with her, but I told her to stay out of it. We are on a break until after the first of the year, but I may not go back once we start up again. If I do go back I don't feel comfortable working with this kid anymore. This has really sunk my joy at helping and trying to teach kids.

Thanks for letting me vent and sorry if this is rambling. Has anyone run into something like this? Should I go back after the break or just chuck it?

Any advice would be greatly apprecated.

J
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Old 12-16-2007, 04:12 PM
 
Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
919 posts, read 2,857,604 times
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This is why I do not personally do this kind of work...you get nothing but demands and cristizm..i guess if you can take that or are used to it, its ok for others, but i won't..I had very bad experience myself with my childs cheerleading coach...purposely left us out of things, ordered her a dirty uniform we had to wash, would not talk to us cause we are not from"around these parts"...she is bitter cause she works in fast food and has little in life...found out half the girls left the team and did not come back cause they did nt feel welcomed on her exclusive team....

I would listen to her and if its true, aploize and if not, tell her go take a bridge nicely...
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Old 12-16-2007, 04:17 PM
 
Location: State of Being
35,885 posts, read 65,242,129 times
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Default What is that little saying?

Maybe Oscar Wilde said it - "No good deed goes unpunished."

Volunteering can be a great experience, but there is almost always a situation that occurs . . . if you volunteer long enuff. Doesn't matter whether it is in the church's music program . . . or as a coach. . . somebody's mother/father is gonna get miffed about some perceived injustice.

The problem here is w/ the mother and her stress in trying to make sure her child has as "normal" an experience as possible. She is undoubtedly very prickly about it - super sensitive - and quick to misread and judge. She is her child's advocate and will learn, somewhere along the way, that others are very willing to make allowances or accommodations for her child - if others are aware how to do that (and as long as it does not create an unfair experience for the other kids).

Email can be so "cold" and I am sure you were stung and truly hurt by the tone of her note as well as her misreading your intentions.

Not having read the note, and just guessing at its accusatory contents, I would advise you to write her back and say "thank you for your note. I appreciate your voicing your concerns. I am a volunteer and do the best I can but would like to learn how I can be of more support to you and your son within the restrictions of the type of program our kids are all participating in. Hope you and your family have a blessed holiday season. J"

Now that is what I would do. It is gracious and it outlines that you are a volunteer and that you are happy to learn how to be more supportive, but it puts in on her to explain just how that is possible w/ in the restrictions of the type of program the kids are participating in. Do not get into a discussion w/ how her accusations were unfair or unjust or even imagined.

I would not ignore it as it is going to eat away at you.

Having done a lot of volunteer work, I have had this type of situation come up several times. In each case, it was b/c a child had a special situation, such as being extremely hyperactive/aggressive, a physical/mental restriction, or anti-social behavior. I found the parents to be so insistent that their child was going to "fit in" and "not be discriminated against" that they eventually became obnoxious and formerly helpful coaches, teachers, volunteers would just refuse to work with them (or resign).

In looking back, these kids were struggling at ages 5-10 but by the time they were 11 or 12, it was so obvious to the school, church, community, neighborhood that the kids were not fitting in . . . and the parents were only alienating everyone . . . that typically the parents either backed off or the child quit attempting to participate in group activities (b/c the behavior problems were simply too overwhelming for everyone involved).

As for physical/mental limitations, there is only so much a coach can do b/c as a child gets older . . . there comes a point when sports are more than just simply scrimmages w/ no score. So despite a parent's desire that his/her child have the chance to participate - there are very few venues that make this possible.

Volunteering is a wonderful service you provide. Please do not let this one parent ruin it for you. She is trying to make someone else responsible for her child's limitations. I am sure you want to do all you can to make sure her child feels good about being part of the team . . . let her know that . . . and then let the chips fall where they may. Just keep reminding yourself that you are doing your best, you choose to be gracious even when treated unfairly, and that you are not the problem here.

Best wishes to you . . .
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Old 12-16-2007, 05:21 PM
 
Location: NJ
9,164 posts, read 20,195,772 times
Reputation: 6210
Quote:
Originally Posted by jlat View Post
The kids are great and try really hard. We only have 45 minutes a week to practice and play 1 game a week. Most of my ten players have never played basketball, or on a team. I even have a 5 year old who is very small. I also have at least 2 kids (probably more) that clearly have some type of attention and focus issues. Mostly they all have problems dribbling, passing or even grasping basic basketball skills or rules of the game. Anyway our games are fun and we don't even keep score. Our rules are that everyone plays the same amount of time, and those that do not start one week starts another. I follow these rules even though other coaches do not. Everyone plays and everyone plays the same amount of time. (I rotate the players at each quarter). I'm active on the sidelines, but I never ever call out any player for any reason. In fact I do just the opposite. I urge them and cheer them and I really am their biggest fan. I do coach them, to play up or play tight or focus (which is an issue with kids this age).
I'd have to say that emailing the parent back, telling them what you said above about how you are running the team would be a start. I'd also put in what anifani wrote. You might also mention the medication. As a parent of a some time medicated child, I make sure all of her teachers know so that if she has a side effect, they know what to do.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jlat View Post
I do my very best, and up until this weekend was having a lot of fun working with them and coaching them. After our last game, I got a piece of email from a mother one of my players (definitely a special needs kid). She told me how disappointed she was with the season and that the way I was handling her child was really bad and that she has to "pick him up" after every game. She went on and said the he has played on other Y teams and she has never had "problems" in the past. I was shocked, stunned and totally blown away by this. I'm just a volunteer, I have no training on how to work with a special needs kid. The mom has never approached me about her son, and if she hadn't had a conversation with my wife at practice, I would have not know about any problems (other that what I have observed). Her mail was not specific on the things that she thought I did, nor did she ever give me any tips on how to work better with her son. Previous to the mail, I've tried to engage her in random converssations at practice, like I do with all parents and she is very stand offish, almost to the point of being rude. At the last game, when it became the kids turn to go in, he would not go. He said he was tired and didn't want to play again. I urged him to go, but he wouldn't go. He did this one time before, and she told me he was on medication, so I thought it might be the same issue. I only have about 30 seconds between periods to get the lineup out on the court and get moving, so I can't argue with the kid and I subbed another player. I think his mom thinks I benched him, but I really didn't. I can't belive she dumped this email on me right before the holidays. It is really bothering me and at this point, if my daughter was not playing I would resign from the team. I love working with kids and I love coaching even though I am not a professional coach. I spend a lot of my own time, and some of my own money working on increasing my knowledge of the games and how to make it a more interesting and worthwhile experience for the kids. I am also the only "dad" volunteer at my girls elementary school and I know when you volunteer with kids, you open yourself up for stuff like this, but it truly has hurt me really badly. I passed her mail to the Y directors that handle kids sports and I have not responded to her directly and have no plans to. My wife wants to have a talk with her, but I told her to stay out of it. We are on a break until after the first of the year, but I may not go back once we start up again. If I do go back I don't feel comfortable working with this kid anymore. This has really sunk my joy at helping and trying to teach kids.

Thanks for letting me vent and sorry if this is rambling. Has anyone run into something like this? Should I go back after the break or just chuck it?

Any advice would be greatly apprecated.

J
You mentioned she seems a bit cool. Do you think maybe she has some sort of medical issue? I have back pain and only have a few hours in the day where I'm some what ok. If you don't know me, you might think I'm like her when I try not to talk too much because I can't focus well when I am in excruciating pain. I've sat through meetings with teachers, I'm sure they wondered about me.

Anyway, IMO, while you can;t discriminate.. you should know what you are dealing with if he's been diagnosed. Then you might want to talk to someone above you, asking how to deal with a special needs kid. They might put him on another team with someone that can deal with it. If you want to try to make a difference in his life, maybe read some info about what his diagnosis is so that you are better equiped to deal with it.
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Old 12-16-2007, 07:52 PM
 
1,031 posts, read 2,101,528 times
Reputation: 521
Quote:
Originally Posted by anifani821 View Post
Not having read the note, and just guessing at its accusatory contents, I would advise you to write her back and say "thank you for your note. I appreciate your voicing your concerns. I am a volunteer and do the best I can but would like to learn how I can be of more support to you and your son within the restrictions of the type of program our kids are all participating in. Hope you and your family have a blessed holiday season. J"

I would not ignore it as it is going to eat away at you.

Volunteering is a wonderful service you provide. Please do not let this one parent ruin it for you. She is trying to make someone else responsible for her child's limitations. I am sure you want to do all you can to make sure her child feels good about being part of the team . . . let her know that . . . and then let the chips fall where they may. Just keep reminding yourself that you are doing your best, you choose to be gracious even when treated unfairly, and that you are not the problem here.

Best wishes to you . . .
AniFani thank you so much, your words and approach are very wise. I have forwarded her email to the Y directors and they were very supportive. They also asked me not to reply to the email, and that they would approach the mother and get the details and make the right decision (move the child, accept my resignation etc). I trust these folks and know that they will do their best to do the right thing for all parties. The downside as you guessed ,is that this is going to eat away at me all through the holidays and that just isn't fair. I am doing my best to put it out of my mind, but I keep coming back and second guessing every interaction that I have had not only with this child but every child on the team. I really don't know that I want to go back to coaching, however my own daughter has blossomed playing on the team and one of the most proudest moments of my entire existance was the very first basket she hit in a game and she came skipping down the court with the biggest smile on her face. Maybe I am putting too much into it, but I really feel so bad.

Thanks for the great and wonderful advice. I know at some point, I will probably have to face this woman, and I will keep in mind what you have posted.

All the best!

J
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Old 12-16-2007, 08:34 PM
 
Location: State of Being
35,885 posts, read 65,242,129 times
Reputation: 22270
Default It hurts to be falsely accused

J, I hope what I wrote might help in some small way.

You must try your very best not to let this unfortunate incident overshadow your joy during this holiday season. Excuse this lady's misplaced frustration and anger. You did nothing wrong - you were doing your best to make sure all the kids had a meaningful experience.

I used to let things really tear me up b/c I wanted to "fix it" and set the record straight! But this is one time - it really would not matter what you said to defend yourself. This mother has her hands full. Just think - she probably feels she has to fight battles on a regular basis to try to smooth the path for her son. She is in battle mode. If it weren't you - it would have been anyone else doing the coaching.

You did your best. Give yourself permission to let it go . . . b/c it is not your problem to own! You have no reason to defend yourself!

And if you have enjoyed coaching . . . do not let this one unhappy woman ruin that for you and your daughter! Why resign? You are doing something good for the community as well as for your family. Your motives are pure.

Focus on how sad this woman's life must be to feel she has to be so assaultive! How exhausting for her! You haven't done anything wrong - so why resign?

I resigned from a volunteer group one time b/c of something very similar. Years later, I wondered why I did that. The woman in that case went on to have run-ins w/ other parents, as well as teachers, for several years . . . until the time came when she had to face that her child needed both medical and behavioral health help.

All I had succeeded in doing by resigning was giving up something I enjoyed . . . and the woman in question had not even noticed . . . she just moved on to her next target.

Be smarter than I was . . . brush this off. . . don't resign . . . and have a Merry Christmas w/ your beautiful family!!!

Ani
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Old 12-16-2007, 08:58 PM
 
Location: Da Parish
1,127 posts, read 4,445,392 times
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Aw Jlat, I feel so bad for you. You are so bothered by this because you were blind sided. There you were thinking you were being fair, helpful, and supportive and then someone comes from left field and takes a slap at you. I've been in the same sort of situation.

It's easier for me to say, "don't let this ruin your holiday," than it is for you to not let it bother you any further. Just know that based on my past experiences, this person has an agenda. There is a reason she didn't complain to you in person and at the time of the percieved insult. The complaint via e-mail just begs for a written response. You were wise to turn it over to the Y directors and not respond.

Sadly, in this day and age, there are people who make a living by setting up lawsuits; you may be dealing with one of these types. The professionally lawsuit happy look for any excuse in order to sue, (even stooping to using their own children), and will blind side you into giving them the paper trail they need to lawyer up.

Before you lose too much sleep over this be aware that this parent may be a scam artist who has marked you as a sap. The indicators are there, a lack of verbal exchange, baiting for something in writing, and the shock factor. Chances are that if this woman is pulling a fast one, she has a reputation of being "difficult" with others. These types prey upon goodhearted, honest people because they want to do the right thing to solve the problem.

Bless your heart, there are 2 ways to fix how you feel: 1. Chocolate cake. or 2. Alcohol. Either method will work This too shall pass.

PS. Anifan has some excellent advice. On the other hand you could just be dealing with a churlish parent. Anifan has that MO down pat.
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Old 12-16-2007, 10:26 PM
 
Location: Camberville
11,395 posts, read 15,991,510 times
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I'm going to play the devil's advocate here.

While I don't think you're actions on the court are in the wrong (and certainly admirable!), you could have handled this situation a bit better and with more sensitivity. IMHO having been a volunteer coach, the best course of action would be a prompt message back asking what you could better do to serve her son. Email messages can be unintentionally snippy and she might not have gone to speak to you face to face or over the phone because this is a sensitive subject that she might have trouble discussing. Just because she is standoffish and aloof does not mean she is rude- I come across as that all the time when it's really just that I'm shy and HATE small talk. Many parents I've dealt with through coaching or babysitting are the same way. The internet can be both a blessing and a curse for dealing with sensitive discussion like this as things can come off sounding MUCH worse than they are.

However, if I was the parent and had not gotten a response back from you within a few days, I would be beyond upset. As a coach, you're in the tough position of having to deal with parents in a prompt manner. Even though you're just volunteering, you committed yourself to this job and it's your responsibility to deal with problems like this. Parents of special kids HAVE to be on their guard and like Anifan said, they can seem overzealous to those who do not have to face the same obstacles. It's easy to see this mom as the bad guy just as it's easy for her to scapegoat you. Open communication is the only way to fix it and as the coach, that's your responsibility to make.

I'm not trying to insult your or criticize you at all. Many of my role models have been coaches from basketball and softball at parks and rec for years and I was with the same few coaches for 5 or 6 years. Until my dad volunteered to be my brother's baseball coach, I NEVER realized how much work went into it. Then I was a coach for the mini Special Olympics in my area and that was a whole other set of challenges. Parents really don't know much about coaches and many don't realize that there is little to no training for them in most cases. But as a coach, you have to go the extra mile to make sure that parents feel comfortable with the kids in your care. Think if it was your child in that position... what might seem normal and fair to you as a coach might not appear so normal and fair if you were just a parent on the sidelines. It's all about miscommunication and jumping to conclusions and that really seems to be the problem here.
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Old 12-17-2007, 04:54 AM
 
Location: NE Florida
9,362 posts, read 22,334,554 times
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First of all- on behalf of thousands of parents everywhere- thank you for volunteering to coach! I could never do that (I'm the one who brings the Gatorade!) My son has gained so much through sports at the Y thanks to people like you.

Second, don't let one negative comment turn you off from coaching. Those kids need a coach like you!

Third, maybe a notice to parents- it has been brought to my attention that......if your child needs accomodations due to medication that he/she is on, please speak to me.

Fouth- maybe thank the mom for her input, let her know that you are new at this and that you could really use an assistant coach. I'm betting that she will shut up rather than put up.
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Old 12-17-2007, 05:12 AM
 
20,793 posts, read 52,354,094 times
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Next time you see her you could suggest that SHE volunteer to coach the team if she seems to have all the answers! You are never going to win with all the parents. I have been a coach for many, many years and you just have to learn to smile and ignore some of the comments. One parent cornered me in the hallway of the hotel we were staying in while we were playing in the STATE TOURNAMENT and told me that since we made it to state all the kids should get equal playing time--high school basketball no less. I simply told her that the KIDS want to win and would be very angry if we did that and walked away.

There is a very good chance this mom actually calculated the exact minutes her kid played and it is very possible he played 10 seconds less then some other kid. You would be amazed at the lengths some parents go. I also agree that some parents of special needs kids can go WAY overboard trying to get everything possible for their child, often at the expense of another child.

Our junior league sports distribute a parents handbook to all parents and it specifically states that under no circumstances are parents to approach a volunteer coach about any issues and all problems are to be brought to the board directly. I think you handled things just right by forwarding that to your board.
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