ESSENTIAL CONFIDENTIAL: I'm your daughter's netball coach, not your marriage counsellor

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images 

Ever wanted to get a parenting gripe off your chest, but were worried what people would think? Welcome to Essential Confidential, a place where you can feel free to air your parenting woes anonymously without fear of judgement. 

When I signed up to coach my daughter's Under 9s netball team, I thought I had a fair idea of what the role would involve - taking the girls for training once or twice a week, teaching them what they need to know about the game I played for much of my youth and perhaps reminding parents whose turn it was to bring half-time oranges to the weekend's game. 

What I didn't think I was signing up for was the job of marriage counsellor - but I was wrong.

The season started out well enough, my interactions with parents mostly consisted of friendly chats on the sidelines at weekends and messages in the team WhatsApp group about game times and training schedules.

But then, sadly, one girl's parents went through a very messy marriage breakdown and separation. And, rather than deal with things like the adults they were meant to be, the mum and dad in question decided to treat those around them, including their daughter's netball coach, as some kind of messenger for anything relating to their daughter.

The friendly WhatsApp messages from the mother soon changed to angry private texts along the lines of "Can you tell him, he needs to bring her straight to my house after the game". Equally, chatting to the player's dad became less light-hearted small talk and more "my daughter doesn't have correct uniform today because my ex didn't send to my house, you'll have to speak to her about it." No. I won't. 

Then, when mum realised I wasn't going to take her side in the war with her ex, I was accused of not caring enough about the girl's well-being. True story.

Look, marriage breakdowns are messy, I get that. And, unfortunately, it is often children who become the focus point when it comes to highlighting the other parent's supposed failures. But I don't have the time or energy to be used as a go-between in other people's personal battles.

It didn't help that this sudden role of marriage counsellor was bestowed on me just weeks after another parent asked that I "have a talk" to a few of the girls who had been involved in a disagreement at school that she "was worried would impact on the rest of the team".

That was another counselling job I didn't realise would be my domain. 

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So here's the thing. Local sports club coaches and managers are volunteers. We are not paid and we are often not given any training ourselves. We do what we do to help out the kids, to get them active and build team spirit.

We have our own families, our own jobs and our own lives to navigate, so please don't expect us to sort out your family's personal issues too.

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