Before you sign your kids up for a team, it's entirely appropriate and reasonable to interview the coach. You should ask potential coaches about their philosophy and how they handle playing time.
If your young athletes are already part of a team, but don't seem happy with the coach, you need to do some research. Gently ask your kids questions about how the coaches treat the team and watch carefully for how they react. You might also ask other parents what they've seen or heard. Attend games and practices and keep a lookout for signs of yelling, intimidation or physical bullying.
If you see or hear about a coach who intimidates, insults or yells at kids, you should take action. If you merely sit back and complain, you're part of the problem. Instead, begin by talking to the coach. You can gently suggest that his or her behavior may hurt kids' confidence or self-esteem.
In some cases, you may find that you can't change the coach's behavior. If this happens, you should try talking to a league or school administrator who oversees the coach. If that isn't helpful, consider moving your child to a different coach or team. Staying with the same coach will likely increase their anxiety and hurt their athletic performance and confidence--at a minimum.
The bottom line for you as parents: Be on the lookout for bully coaches and arm yourself with the information you need to take action.
Award-winning parenting writer Lisa Cohn and Youth Sports Psychology expert Dr. Patrick Cohn are co-founders of The Ultimate Sports Parent. Pick up their free e-book, "Ten Tips to Improve Confidence and Success in Young Athletes" by visiting youthsportspsychology.com.