Dear Volleyball Coach,
Here we are 1/2 way through the club volleyball season, and i can’t seem to get my mind to stop thinking about how you are squandering a fantastic opportunity we have given you. An opportunity that has the potential to change your life. An opportunity that could help mold your coaching future. An opportunity to have an effect on how you parent your own kids some day. An opportunity to join the fantastic world our daughter lives in. An opportunity to learn about her challenges, help her conquer them, and celebrate with her those victories. An opportunity to open your mind and heart to a truly special kid that would undoubtedly become a best friend for life.
Instead of being a Coaching Mentor to my special kid, you are nothing more than a High School “MEAN-GIRL”!
On the day of try-outs, 4 months ago, we shared with you that our daughter is living with Asperger’s. We understand there are not many people that understand Asperger’s, and how it effects a child. Every person we’ve talked with about our daughter says, “but she looks so normal”. And you weren’t any different, which is fine i guess becasue we are used to hearing it, but if you remember we offered a couple of quick tips to consider when coaching our daughter.
1. She stuggles to look people in the eyes, which doesn’t mean she disrespects you, it’s just painful for her to do so.
2. She will likely have a blank look on her face, which will make you think she’s not listening. I can assure you she is listening to what you are teaching her.
3. She sees, and hears everything. So, while you are explaining something to her, she will not only be listening to you, but her mind has the ability to listen in on surrounding conversations. This does not mean she is distracted, this is because her mind processes conversations far more quickly than we are capable of giving information to her.
We briefed you with this quick bit of helpful information, and asked that we have a meeting with you so we could continue the conversation, and set up a plan for a successful season. Your response, “yes, let’s definitely schedule something. we are so excited to have your daughter on our team, and can’t believe she was avaliable for us to draft to our team”. Mom and i went away from this tryout-day conversation flooded with different emotions, but we were in the middle of a succesful relationship and experience with our daughters school by following this exact plan we were proposing with you, so we remained optimistic and excited.
Since then, our experience has been nothing short of……. well…… UNBELIEVABLE!!
While many people associate the word unbelievable with something good, i choose to challenge the every day definition, and dare to say our experience has been unbelieveably terrible. Let’s briely recap the 1st half of the season:
- Despite repeated requests to meet with you, you have not been able to “find a spot in your schedule”. Do you even care to meet? Your actions clearly show you don’t.
- You pulled her from her starting position at the 1st tournament of the season because “she doesn’t cheer enough”. Wow, really? You could have easily allowed us to prepare you for this had you chosen to meet with mom and me. Not to mention, if you cared enough to take 5 minutes for an internet search, you would learn for yourself this would be something difficult for a child like ours. However, once we knew “cheering” would determine playing time, we have taken the time to work with and coach our daughter about how to be supportive of her team and teammates by cheering them on. Let’s overlook the fact this isn’t a cheer team, but rather a volleyball team….. but, mom and i have helped her learn to do something that’s not natural for her, and what you expect of her. Yet she hasn’t been given the opportunity to earn her spot back. She does not understand. She does not understand why she was told she needed to change, without any sort of explanation, and yet she did what you wanted, and you have not acknowledged her accomplishment of doing what you have asked of her. Sounds like you have the problem, not her.
- On her written perfomance review you gave her, you stated she has a “great jump-float serve”, yet you don’t allow her to serve when she’s in the game. She doesn’t understand the mixed signals. She doesn’t understand how she could work hard to be great at something, but not be allowed to do it. Without explanation, what are you possibly teaching her about the world??
- You’ve told her she needs to improve at “X”. That’s it, that’s the extent of your coaching. “Get better at X”. Wow great coaching. Allow me to mentor you on how this should have gone:
- You are only 13, and becoming a very good volleyball player. To help develop your abilities, you should work on “X”.
- Let me take a moment to explain how getting better at “X” can help you.
- Let’s talk about what “X” is, and why it is an important part of volleyball.
- I’m going to demonstrate what “X” looks like, and how you do it.
- Now, let’s practice “X” together.
- Can you show me how you do “X”.
- Let’s talk about some things you can do at practice, and at home, to practice “X”
- What do you think about working on getting better at “X”?
- If you have more questions about “X”, do you think you would be comfortable asking me?
- Is it okay if we talk about “X” again next week, and see how you’re improving?
- During a tournament game, you played every girl on the team except her, then pulled her aside afterwards to say that you “forgot about her”. YOU FORGOT!! In what world is that acceptable to tell someone, let alone a 13 year old living with Asperger’s. Then the next day of tournament games, your assistant coach had to remind you about our daughter as you went through the lineup in front of the team.
- So when our daughter talked to us about what you told her about forgetting her, we confronted you about it. At which time, you took to stance that she was lying…… our daughter was lying???? Wow, really??? Again, i suggest you take a few minutes to do an internet search to educate yourself about how consistently kids living on the Autism Spectrum tell the truth, they tell it as it is. And our daughter is no different.
- During a tournamet game you decided to move her to a different position without warning. Something completely unexpected, and unprepared for. She found a way to be okay with the switch, but she was not able to find a way to be okay with you being hard on her for not performing at a high level at the new position you thrust upon her at the spur of the moment. Another point you could have learned from a meeting with mom and me.
- You have asked the girls to communicate directly with you, instead of including the parents. That’s fine, i don’t have a problem with kids learning to develop that skill. What i do have a major problem with is the fact it took mom and i several weeks to coach and role play with our daughter how a conversation may go between her and you. Then, we somehow built up the courage in her to text you and ask for a meeting. Huge milestone accomplished. Despite our role-playing of different scenarios, we could have never anticipated how the meeting between the 2 of you would go. That you would call her rude for fighting for her postion, and telling you she didn’t understand why you would pull her from the game after a mistake or 2, yet other girls on the team would be allowed to play through their continued mistakes. Rude? How is that rude? Frankly, we are proud of her for fighting for herself.
- You also complained to her about mom and me. Really, put her in the middle? The only thing we’ve done wrong is repeatedly asked to have a meeting with you to clue you in to opportunites when coaching a kid living on the spectrum. But instead, you’d prefer to bully our daughter about it. In what society is it okay to put a 13 year old in the middle of adult responsibilities?
- Just like a player, a coach is in the spotlight. A coaches actions are ‘watched’ by her players. A coaches actions are ‘watched’ by parents and fans too. It is obvious you have given up on my daughter. You do not look her in the eyes, despite the fact she finds the strength to look at you in the face. You do not encourage her to get better, but rather berate her for things she does poorly. We see this. We see when you roll your eyes if she makes a bad play. We see your lack of enthusiam. We see these things, she sees these things, and so do others.
- We saw you walk past us after a tournament, and try to act like you didn’t see our daughter. A child living with Asperger’s is not going to be the one to seek out the coach and say goodbye. However, a coach that gives a shit would take the extra second to open her mouth and say, “bye, you did a great job playing this weekend, see you on Monday!”. I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if we were one of the other players/families on the team?
And that’s just the tip of the ice berg.
Mom and I continue to build our daughter up, and you continue to beat her down, then we build her up bigger. This is not fair. This is not fair to our daughter. This is not fair to mom and me. The difference, though, is that mom and i have decided to join our daughters spectacular world. A world which is truly amazing. A world which is challenging. A world which is joyful and fun. A world which is exciting. A world which is unbelievable…….. UNBELIEVABLY AWESOME!
Clearly you have decided it’s not worth it. Maybe you just think it’s too much work? Clearly you are closed-minded, and not willing to embrace any opportunites for personal growth. Even though this would also help your professional growth as a coach of young players.
Despite your high school dramatics, our daughter continues to go out there and do awesome things on the volleyball court. She continues to practice hard to get better. Other parents continually ask me why she doesn’t play more. Several parents have commented directly to her, “the energy and excitement of the game gets better when you are in the game”. She works hard on the things she has clear expectations for. She works hard on the things she doesn’t have clear expectations for. She works hard to be a good teammate (another thing you’d realize is rare with kids on the Spectrum if you cared to do any research). Her game continues to get better, not because of you, but rather despite you.
Mom and i will continue to encourage her the rest of the season to play hard, to continue to have a great attitude, to continue to be a team player. We will not give up on her. We will not squander the opportunity she has given us to be a part of her world.
FYI – at dinner the other night, our daughter told us when she’s giving her speach after winning an Olympic Gold Medal in volleyball, she plans to thank her coaches by name, but will “forget” to mention yours.