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Q: My son tried out for the local rep team. His coach said he was one of the best players but that he didn't like me, his father, and wouldn't keep him because of that. As long as the same coach is there it appears my son will never have the chance to play travel. What can I do? John Purdie, Windsor, Ont.
A: In his more than 20 years' involvement with minor hockey, Brian Hancock has seen this situation before. Here's Brian's advice:
"I wish there was a simple answer but the truth is there's not. Our local association uses a standardized evaluation form for all tryouts, and along with the usual list of skills there is also a heading called 'intangibles.' Your coach obviously places a huge emphasis on this quality. As hard as it may be to hear, it is well within the coach's right to release your son based on his issues with you. My question is, is his evaluation of you fair?
"My first recommendation: arrange a meeting between the coach and yourself and ask some questions. Sometimes a coach has a perception of you that is completely unfounded. Understand that the coach has the authority to pick the team he is most comfortable with. Chemistry is a huge part of any hockey team, and that chemistry must extend beyond the players and includes the parents.
"Before you meet you may want to take the time to write some key questions you want to ask, ie: 'My son has worked hard to make your hockey team, I never intended to impede his progress, is there any way we can resolve our differences so that everyone can move forward?' Take the emotion out of the situation as much as possible. I know it's easier said than done, but emotion usually just complicates the issue.
"If the coach is unwilling to meet, or you are not happy with the first conversation, then your next move is to meet with someone from the local association and the coach. Our local Minor Hockey director has acted as mediator in a number of these types of issues. This third party can usually keep the meeting calm and constructive. Again, talk about the issues and eliminate the emotion as much as you can. Challenging the coach will probably not get the outcome you desire.
"I hate to hear a kid is suffering for something beyond his control, so work within the system to resolve your differences and accept your role in the solution. One of the signs of a good coach is that he can wipe the slate clean between periods and get focused on the next period. Hopefully he will see you are sincere and your son will be able to play in the future. Good luck."
Read Brian's blog on the subject: Back seat coaching.
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