How to Deal with Bad Coaches

As an athlete, you will have many coaches throughout your career. Some of them will be good, and some of them will be bad. You’ll love playing for the good coaches, but you may hate playing for the bad coaches. The bad coaches may negatively affect you in many ways, including:

  • Hurting your confidence and self-esteem.
  • Spreading a negative attitude and mindset.
  • Teaching you bad habits and techniques.
  • Not pushing you hard enough.
  • Pushing you too hard and causing burnout/injuries.
  • Not giving you the playing time you deserve.

We’ve all had coaches who hurt us in these ways and many more. Playing for bad coaches can not only stunt your growth and prevent you from reaching your goals, but it can also cause you to lose your love for the game and quit. So how do you deal with bad coaches?

The first thing you need to do is check yourself. Is your coach really a bad coach, or do you just have a bad attitude? Is your coach behaving in unacceptable ways, or are you just being mentally weak and uncoachable? As an athlete, you need to have realistic expectations about your coaches. No coach is perfect. Every coach is human, therefore every coach has flaws. They’re going to be in a bad mood some days. They’re going to be irrational sometimes and make bad decisions occasionally. They’re going to have certain qualities that you don’t like. Their personality and philosophy may not always line up with yours. But this is ok. A coach doesn’t have to be perfect for you to benefit from them. As an athlete, you need to be mentally tough and learn how to take the good things from your coach while ignoring the bad things. This will help you greatly later in life when you have to deal with bad bosses.

To help deal with bad coaches, it helps to have empathy towards them. If you’re in high school, understand that your coaches are most likely not getting paid as much as they should. Your head coach is most likely already working a full time job and is coaching on the side mainly for the love of the game.

Furthermore, understand that you’re not perfect either. While your coach may make mistakes sometimes, so will you. You, along with all your teammates, will do dozens of things every day to stress out your coach. So don’t be surprised if your coach takes out his or her frustration on you every once in a while. Be humble and understand that if you want your coach to be better, you have to be better yourself.  A player-coach relationship is a two-way street.

With these better attitudes, you’ll be able to grow as an athlete even with below average coaching. The best athletes are able to thrive with almost any coach. This is because they're able to cultivate their own motivation and confidence without depending too much on the help of others.

However, this doesn’t mean you should always accept bad coaching and work around it. There are times when you need to be more proactive and hold your coaches accountable. If your coach is truly hurting your development and/or mental health, then you should set up a meeting to respectfully talk about your issues. Ideally, you take this into your own hands and do it yourself. But if this is not possible, you can have your parents help talk to your coach. Many issues can be solved if you simply have the courage to set up a meeting to talk things out.

Also, if you’re having an issue with your coach, this doesn’t mean you have the right to be a bad teammate. While you’re working out your issues with your coach, you need to continue to put the team first and be a good teammate. Having a bad attitude not only hurts you, but it also affects everyone else on the team. It’s possible to work out your issues with your coach while maintaining a good attitude.

If your coach is doing something illegal or highly unethical, then you need to get outside authorities involved as soon as possible. The longer you let it linger, the worse the problem becomes.

Lastly, if you do your best to work out your issues with your coach but nothing improves, then you should look for a new coach. There’s no point in continuing to play for a bad coach who refuses to change. As an athlete, you deserve more from your coaches. Yes, loyalty to your school and community is important, but at some point, you need to do what’s best for you. If it’s necessary and possible for you to change coaches, then do it. But if this isn’t possible, and you’re stuck with the coach in your town, it may be best for you to quit the team and find other ways to enjoy sports. Remember, no one can force you to put up with a terrible coach who refuses to change. No matter how much you want to play on a team, it’s not worth it if your coach causes you too much emotional and/or physical pain.

Here is a three point summary on how to deal with bad coaches:

  1. Improve your attitude, have empathy, and be mentally tough.
  2. Work out your issues with your coach respectfully.
  3. As a last resort, find a new coach.

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