Coach the Parent: What to expect!

Sep 25, 14 Coach the Parent: What to expect!

One thing I’ve learnt about coaching kids is to keep parents informed on team rules but don’t get too close it may backfire at some stage. Believe it or not 99% of parents are workable and don’t get involved. To make things work for you, training the parents early on sets the standard going forward.

The parents aren’t your best friends nor do you want them to be. For years I’ve listened to parents talk about players and coaching staff from a distance. They forget that Ireland is very windy, and sound travels easily. I respect parents, I appreciate the time and effort they make to get the kids to and from training and I enjoy seeing them there on match day. What I don’t like is when they start to interfere in things that don’t concern them.

“Players do not need adults to question their actions, the actions of other players, or the coach’s decisions concerning team dynamics or playing time, this does not concern you!” –  TCD

I always find it funny when unqualified parents offer their advice on the team selection or say things like, ‘I don’t agree with your changes etc etc’. If you’re one of those parents reading this article; Coaches don’t really care what you think!!! They are in it for the kids not for you. All we need from you is to support your child and don’t talk negative about his/her coach. Most kids actually like their coaches, and when you talk them down, they don’t think you’re being cool!!

“Do not allow a player or his/her teammates to put themselves or anyone else down. We are hear to build self-esteem not destroy it.” – TCD

One of biggest issue kids will face playing a sport is the interference from their parents in team dynamics. I see it all too often, where parents take every single decision made personally. My advice is to back-off, it’s not your game and it’s certainly not your team, so stop going on like, you’re playing.

According to Dan Gould at the Michigan State University Institute for the Study of Youth Sports:

  • Kids want to have fun, to get better, and to be with their friends.
  • They want parental support and encouragement. 
  • They want you to watch them play and praise them for their effort.
  • They want you to be realistic about their ability.
  • And they want you to be present, and interested in what they are doing. 

They do not want you to shout at them the coach and the refs.  They don’t want you to put too much pressure on them, or be overly critical.  They want the game to be theirs!

John O’Sullivan from the Changing The Game Project, who recently spoke in Dublin added,  “When I grew up, it was children competing against children. With two adults on either side. Now, more often than not, it’s adults competing against other adults through their children.” “It’s know as ‘adultification’ of kids sports. It’s the introduction of adult values into kids’ games.”

This causes myriad problems. Dan Saferstein, PhD, a sports psychologist and author of Win or Lose: A Guide to Sports Parenting, works with young athletes, including U.S. hockey national youth teams.

“If you get a high-achieving, talented kid with a pushy, high-achieving parent, it can work out,” says Saferstein. “The kid can somehow rise to the expectations of the parent, and the kid may even share some of that drive himself.

“What can be tragic, though, is when you get a more driven, consumed parent with a kid who somehow, in the parent’s eyes, just doesn’t measure up.” The result, says Saferstein, extends further than sports: “The kid feels like a failure.”

Parents often misperceive their child’s natural talent. “There’s a myth in youth sports that if you work hard enough, you can achieve anything,” he says. “It’s not true.”

Majority of kids (especially teenagers) don’t want you to fight their corner, yes they want you too support them but they don’t want you to embarrass them with your actions.

Don’t base a football season on a single game. Parents can judge you at the end of the season by asking 3 simple questions:

1. Has the child become a better person?
2. Has the child improved?
3. Was the coach fair to the child?

What Works & What doesn’t Work?

  1. Most parents who are pushy, do so because they don’t know how to be helpful and do not understand the effects that this has on you and their child. They generally bring up issues at the wrong time. My advice is never vent before or after a game. Take 24 hours and approach the coach then.
  2. We know all parents want is for their child to be happy and successful and when they take things personally is normally cases them to say things in the heat of the moment. You are in a position as a coach to give parents the 2 things that they want the most for their child to feel happy and successful.
  3. For most coaches it’s not about winning. It’s about having fun, improving and giving the players the best chase of being successful in a game. Success is not always defined as winning. Winning is great but getting better is more important.
  4. There are lots of things in life we can’t control. For instance focusing on taking another kids spot in the team. Parents should never tell their child to focus on taking someone else’s place. The player can’t control that but he/she can focus on getting better.
  5. Communicate early on with parents. Set the sideline behaviour standards and what’s expected of them and get them to commit to the parent pledge.  For parents specifically state that coaching is something you do and they don’t. Define what it means to coach so that they won’t have any confusion.
  6. Be approachable and encourage them to come to you directly if they have any issues. Listen to them and give them the feeling that you hear them and can understand where they are coming from, even if you don’t agree with them. Allow them to talk first and finish talking before your start.
  7. If they push your hot buttons, stay in control of your emotions. If you lose control, you will say things you don’t really mean and most likely be ineffective.
  8. Do they know about your club rules, philosophy and coaching methods. If they don’t make sure your inform them.
  9. Let them know about the players rules. Try and set 3 rules for the season, for instance; 1. Respect everyone on the team 2: Commitment works both ways. If a player is not involved, he’s not committed.  3. In order to be selected a player must train with commitment and a willingness to learn. He/she must be prepared to focus close to 100% at all times.
  10. Let them know that you won’t tolerate player or parent bad behaviour and every violation carries a punishment.
  11. You won’t always get it right and if you’re starting out if can be even more daunting. Get yourself educated on the best practices, never ever act as if you’re not the expert. If you don’t know just tell them (non-conflict way) that you will get back to them and go an educate yourself on how to deal with issue or question. You can always ask a more experienced coaches.
  12. Define team goals and make sure the parents know what the goals are.
  13. Not all kids are the same. Some are better than others and some bigger than others. All kids develop and learn at different stages. It’s a natural process. Most parents don’t understand why their child may not be performing at a certain level and winning everything in sight. Tell them not to focus so much on the weekends game. Learning about the game is a long process and success should be measured long-term not short-term.
  14. I  added this after I posted the article because it was something that happened recently. You might find the reason a player is not doing what you have asked him to do week after week because (A). He still doesn’t understand what you’re asking him to do, so maybe try and explain it in a different way or (B). He’s father has been telling him to do the complete opposite (as happened to me). This is another reason why parent’s should let the coach do the coaching and they do the supporting.
  15. Finally, let them know that you don’t just show up at the weekend and decide you starts and who doesn’t. The higher the level the more the coaches and managers are in discussion about team dynamics, formations and tactics (11 aside football mostly). 99% of coaches don’t take picking starting line-ups lightly. As soon as one game is finished they are thinking about the next one. For most of us it’s a daily discussion. I’m not referring to small sided games!

When you allow parents run your team and make decisions on your behalf, it’s time for someone to move on!!


Date for your diary: 

  1. 04 & 05th Silent Sideline Weekend
  2. 29th September Silent Sideline Workshop, (Supported by Fingal City Council)

Sign Up for the Silent Sideline Workshop

Sign Up for Silent Sideline Weekend

I always like to hear your opinions and views. If you feel you have something to say, please comment below or email me and if you don’t have anything to add, please pass this on to a friend.

As always, thanks for reading. I’m also on twitter  @Coachdiary

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