How To Handle Coaches Bias and Favouritism

How To Handle Coaches Bias and Favouritism

We’ve all experienced Coaches that favour one or more children above others. Maybe we’ve seen it in action and considered the coach to be against our child. Because “He should have seen that Damian is much better than Greg.”

There’s a healthy way to handle what we see as bias and favouritism and a not so healthy way, let’s explore that.

Why Bias and Favoritism Occur

I’m going to start this conversation talking about breakfast cereal. You might think I’m crazy and it’s one easy way to explain the why, behind bias and favouritism.

When you walk into the Supermarket to shop for cereal and you walk down the aisle that is full of all the brands and options for you to choose, what is it that makes you pick one cereal over another?

Is it that you love the colour of the box it is packaged in?

Maybe you’ve tried it before and liked or disliked it. Naturally, you won’t buy the one you disliked so you pass by that one.

You might want to try something new and there are so many choices that you then have to work through narrowing down your taste, at that time, and that’s not easy when there are a million other things floating in your mind and one of them isn’t what flavour cereal am I wanting for breakfast.

Then, of course, you may be the shopper who has a favourite cereal and that’s the one you buy EVERY time you shop for cereal.

Have you pictured yourself in the cereal aisle as I’ve described this? Which type of cereal shopper are you?

Okay, now the reason why I used this example to explain why coaches have favourites or are biased towards certain players; there are some that they simply like more than others.

That’s it.  Plain and simple really.

It might be because of the way the child greets the coach at every practice. Maybe it’s because the coach can see themselves in that child; the hard worker, or the achiever.

However it happens, it happens.

And, because it happens based on what’s going on in the Coaches mind, there is little you can do about it, in all honesty. Other than understanding it, accept it and watch your reaction when it happens.

What You Can Do About It, For Your Child

Yes, I did say “watch YOUR reaction.” Because that’s the telling sign.

Have you watched the coach favour one child over another and said something out loud that your child could hear?  Have you commented to your partner about how the coach plays favourites, in front of your child?

That is what I am talking about, your reaction.

You are reacting to what YOU see as injustice, and I’m going to call it that just for the sake of it. The unfairness of your child not having favour, above someone else. Maybe just basically that you think all of the kids on the team should be treated fairly and equally.

Well, guess what, the reality is that isn’t happening. The Coach has favourites.

The best thing to do is to notice when you get upset about what you see from the Coach or Coaches.

Pay attention to what’s going on in YOUR mind and let yourself connect with what you’re feeling; angry, upset, hurt, furious.  It’s all okay. Feeling like that I mean.

And if you feel really strongly about what’s going on, you might like to look at how this touches a raw nerve inside you. Were you treated that same way as a child? Were you one of the ones that the coach didn’t favour?

You might be wanting to tell me that this has nothing to do with you and your childhood and I’m going to tell you, that’s not true.  Any reaction you have to what you see will be connected back to your own childhood somehow, otherwise, you wouldn’t be reacting to it.

What you might like to try is sitting down and writing an email to the coach telling him exactly what you think of him. YOU CANNOT SEND IT though. This is about allowing yourself to express how you feel.

Doing this you might notice that you feel less emotional charge around the Coach when you see him next.

If you had no issue with what the Coach was doing, you’d look at what they are doing and be totally okay with it because you’d see someone who is choosing cereal in the cereal aisle (and pardon the analogy). And that's it.

It would have NOTHING to do with your child.

How To Help Your Child To Deal With What Is Happening

So, when it comes to supporting your child to deal with this bias or favouritism here are a few things you can do:

  1. Pay attention to what’s making you upset and deal with it yourself, rather than speaking about it in front of your child. Your child mightn’t have thought anything about it until hearing you make a comment.
  2. Talk to your child about the cereal aisle, again it is something easy for them to grasp as I’m sure they love eating cereal too. Talk about choices and how some people make those choices in one way and others in another. Everyone is allowed to make choices, their own choices. Just because you choose Chex doesn’t mean you are a bad person.
  3. Support your child to focus on their skills and ability. This is not about the other child or children who are being called out. It is however about your child seeing themselves as equally as good or worthy of the opportunity. And I hear you saying “But if the coach doesn’t see them then how are they going to get that opportunity.” Well, maybe THIS coach isn’t going to be the one to give them the opportunity, and yet if they continue to work on themselves, their skills and mental awareness, they may be picked up by someone even more influential than their current coach.
  4. Understand that this coach picking favourites doesn’t’ really mean anything unless you let it. Help your child to see that. Work with them to break down the comparing and what that means. You’ll have read my posts on comparison and why it’s of little value. Go back and read them again and talk to your child about it. Comparing creates stress and takes away the fun. Get them back to a place of having fun when they play, no matter what is happening with the coach and the other kids.

Karen Cherrett is a Sports Mindset Coach who specializes in coaching hockey players. Karen coaches players to be more focused and play with ease, not stress. And their parents to support their child in the best possible way. Life playing hockey should be fun. Mindset matters. Mental health matters. Hockey should be fun, not emotionally overloading. #MindsetMatters

Back to blog