If you talk to coaches, they will tell you stories about overprotective, controlling parents. If you talk to parents, they will tell you about unfair coaches who don’t let their kids play enough or play the position they want.
There’s a lot of finger pointing in youth sports. And the result is that many parents and coaches seem to have forgotten that they should be on the same team–the one that helps kids grow and learn from their youth sports experience.
Here’s the deal: coaches and parents do not have to agree on everything. But they CAN look for ways to work together for the good of the kids. Maybe it’s time to stop focusing on what separates coaches and parents and start looking for ways to cooperate.
Here’s Where You Can Start:
Work on Good Communication.
Coaches: be sure you are consistently and clearly communicating with parents. This includes scheduling, team rules, and most importantly, expectations. Parents should know before the season starts what their child’s role is and what their child can do to improve it if their child is not happy about it.
If you have to, over-communicate. Parents are busy and may need to hear things in a couple of different ways: email, text, instagram, etc.
Parents: let the coach know what’s going on with your child if they are sick, can’t make practice, will be out of town with the family, etc. This is just a common courtesy for the coach who may have to adjust the game plan because of your child’s absence.
If you have a problem or concern, pull the coach aside privately and seek to understand the issue, without accusations. Listen to their side of the story and share your own concerns, but leave the decisions up to the coach. That is their job. If you are not satisfied with the conversation or could not reach a resolution, let the coach know you may be talking to the higher-ups.
Respect the Rules.
Once team or league rules have been established, it is important that coaches and parents know them and abide by them consistently. If a player breaks team rules, parents should back up the coach’s discipline.
Parents: stop trying to bypass the rules just so that your child can play. Your player knew the rules and should deal with the consequences of breaking them.
Coaches: stop trying to bypass the rules just so that your star players can play. They need to learn to deal with the consequences of their behavior just like every other child on the team.
Set Realistic Goals.
According to Psychology Today:
We live in a sport culture where, amazingly enough, according to a recent survey, 26% of parents believe that their children will become professional or Olympic athletes. The real odds are far less than one-tenth of one percent. But parents can be seduced by those messages and may, as a result, set goals for their children that are entirely unrealistic.
Coaches, it’s important to establish realistic goals for your athletes that their parents can embrace and support.
Parents, support your child’s ambitions by encouraging them, without suffocating them in an attempt to push them to achieve those goals. If the coach has not helped your child set goals, work with your child and help them set their own goals.
The bottom line is this: youth sports is a great place to learn about goal-setting and goal-achieving. Parents and coaches who work together and support the child in this will see greater improvement and growth in their athletes.
Get Parents Involved.
Coaches, getting parents involved in the team is a great way for you to get parental support. Look for opportunities to ask them for advice and guidance about issues that come up. Ask them for help with tasks that free you up to work with the kids.
When parents are involved in their children’s sports, they feel more invested in their children’s athletic experiences–hopefully in a healthy way. They may even have greater sympathy for the hard job of coaching as they observe all that you do.
Parents, even if you are busy, find a way to help out, even if it’s just one small thing. Many hands helping will make the workload lighter. Your child’s coach really wants to focus on the game and teaching your child how to play and work on their skills. If you take some of the off-the-field tasks off their plate, you will allow them to do just that – a win/win for them and for your child.
Seek to Understand.
When the coach seems grumpy, seek to understand.
When the parents are upset, seek to understand.
I think if coaches and parents did a little more of seeking to understand why another person is acting a certain way instead of jumping to conclusions and casting blame, there would be a lot fewer conflicts in youth sports.
Seeking to understand where someone else is coming from is not a natural instinct. It takes work and growth for you to remind yourself that there’s always more to another person’s response than what meets the eye. That doesn’t excuse bad behavior, but it can help you understand why and look for a mutual resolution.
Maybe the coach just found out that a loved one was terminally ill. Or a parent came to practice after getting fired from their job. Reactions from parents and coaches often have more to do with what’s going on inside their head than what’s happening on the field or court.
Sports parents pay a lot of money so their kids can play: travel teams, equipment, extra training. It’s no surprise that they get frustrated at their kids’ coaches when they do not understand the coach’s decisions.
But parents and coaches must figure out how to work together, rather than against each other. For the good of the team, your family, and your child.