One of the biggest challenges in sports at the entry-level, high school level, or even the professionals is the relationship that coaches have with parents. Believe it or not, coaches and parents of athletes want the same thing, to win, compete and have their players succeed. The problem is, sometimes the process of achieving those goals gets muddled along the way. Parents obviously want what is best for their children and often wear blinders when it comes to evaluating and criticizing their abilities.
It is not out of the ordinary for parents to have questions such as, is my kid getting a fair amount of playing time? Are they getting a fair number of touches or involvement in the play? Are they getting enough attention from the coaching staff to improve their talents? Does the coach even know what they are doing? While these questions are often viable, they sometimes cause stress between the parents and the coaches involved.
Whether the coach is paid or a volunteer, parents have a level of expectations, which can often be unfair. Unfortunately, the one individual impacted the most by this is the athlete. However, not all relationships between coaches and parents are negative, especially when the following strategies are implemented.
Have you ever stood at home plate staring down a fastball in the bottom of the 9th with two out, and you have the chance to be the hero? Have you ever been the point guard and coach has set a play to run, and all you hear is a gym full of screaming voices telling you a hundred different things? Athletes have enough pressure to deal with trying to compete and win the game that they don’t need to have their parents play the role of bleacher coach and please their actual coach and find their own success.
When a parent is yelling at their child to do one thing, and the team strategy is different, this easily confuses the athlete and others on the team. This behavior from parents can often undermine the coach’s authority and potentially cause dissension in the team. Coaches belong on the team bench, parents belong in the bleachers.
Coaches have enough on their plate, and dealing with naive, uneducated parents is something they don’t have time for. There is a difference between a parent who honestly doesn’t know much about the sport versus a parent who acts like a know-it-all. Helping parents understand some of the rules, skills, and strategies and patiently answering legitimate questions about the sport can help make things easier for all involved. As a parent, there are endless resources online to help you understand your child’s sport, take time to educate yourself.
Channels of Communication
There is a time and place for parents to talk to coaches. After losing a championship game or on the wrong side of a blowout loss is not the time. Some coaches have a 24-hour rule before and following the game. This rule allows all parties involved time to cool down and come back to reality. The rule that stops anyone from saying something regretful in the heat of the moment. Additionally, it is also essential to communicate with the coach when players will be absent (something that the player should take onus for themselves if age appropriate).
Holding a parent meeting at the beginning of the year to share your coaching and team philosophy, the plan for the season, and the team rules are essential. This is also a prime opportunity to engage parents in helping with supporting roles such as fundraising organizer, team manager, etc. Providing an outlet for open discussion and questions from coach to parent and parent to coach is key. Having a mid-season meeting may also be an option.
Having an impromptu or informal and social parent and coaching staff outing is also an option. Getting to know each other as humans rather than as coaches and parent is important. It may help understand where each other is coming from and what each other deals with daily.
There Is No “I” In Team
Just as we taught our athletes not to be individuals and focused on themselves, as parents, it is also important to support the other players’ successes on the team. If your child is competing in a team sport, don’t just fixate on their accomplishments. Make sure that you are supportive of all members of the team.
Keep in mind that sportsmanship extends to the fans in the bleachers. Making a spectacle of yourself by calling out the officials, the opposition, and disrespecting the sport brings the focus and enjoyment away from the game and puts the spotlight on the wrong individual.
Time Well Spent
Whether the coach has a child playing on the team or not, they are still putting in their time to create an opportunity for your child to participate in sport. Parents must realize that as coaches, the work doesn’t begin and end when the game or practice starts, and it doesn’t end after the final whistle. For every game or practice, chances are the coach has put in at least two more hours of work. This work includes preparing strategies, drills, setting up the gym or field, talking to other parents, dealing with administrators, and countless other demands. Parents should consider that many youth sport coaches are either volunteers or paid less than minimum wage for the number of hours they put into the team.
Build A Relationship
There is a difference between sucking up to the coach and establishing a relationship with them. When you try to have ulterior motives, they most likely will come back to do more harm than good towards your child’s enjoyment of the sport. However, taking the time to get to know the coaching staff and possibly offer a helping hand in some fashion is often a welcome gesture. Creating a communication channel with the coaches makes some of the downtime more enjoyable. Still, it also helps with productive conversations when there are potential conflicts on the team or seeking extra assistance with skill development.
It’s Easy to Complain
It’s always easy to find something wrong with what someone else is doing. Coaches are bound to make the wrong decisions from time to time, inserting the wrong player, calling the wrong play, not playing your child enough, demanding too much time. The list is endless. While a gratitude gift is always incredibly appreciated, that is not why coaches do what they do. However, what is even more welcome is the occasional heartfelt thank you and some verbal appreciation of their efforts. Knowing that parents and players see value in their time means a lot to coaches. It encourages them to continue doing their job.
Keep Your Opinions To Yourself
Parents always see their child as either a star better than they actually are and deserving of more. Whether this is true or not, putting your child in the middle of a dispute between you and the coach will do more harm than good, especially if your child does not share your opinion. If you have an issue with the coach, as to have a private conversation with them. If your child has an issue with them, teach your child how they can maturely deal with it.
Prove Yourself Worthy
Depending on the level of the team, parents want to know that you are knowledgeable enough to coach their child. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to know and implement Phil Jackson’s complex Triangle Offence for coaching a group of four or five-year-old kids.
However, those parents will more than likely want to know that you are familiar with keeping kids at that age engaged and active. As athletes get older and reach more competitive levels, the need for coaches to increase their technical, tactical, and physical knowledge.