Almost every coach in youth sports understands the importance of keeping the athletes’ parents in line just as frequently as the athletes themselves. A constructive game of competitiveness and teamwork among younger players can quickly be ruined by the actions of disrespectful parents.
Similarly, parents who treat their children’s teams as importantly as those in professional leagues can not only make your job harder, but reflect a negative image of the sport on their children, potentially leading to them refusing to play in the future. Though it may not have been outlined in the official job description, managing your players’ parents should be prioritized as a coach. To maintain your authority as coach and maintain civility on and off the court (or field), consider any of the following strategies when dealing with the more animated parents of younger athletes.
Have Open Communication
Parents that feel they are left in the dark with their children’s teams are more likely to harbor negative feelings toward the coaches. Encourage your athletes to share what they’ve learned with their parents, the drills you are having players take part in, and your general coaching philosophy. When they are present at practice sessions, acknowledge them as key members of their children’s success. Parents who feel that they have defining roles on these teams are much more likely to better their young athletes rather than hinder their progress.
Hold a Preseason Meeting
A great way of preventing issues between parents and your team is by introducing yourself, getting to know them, and addressing any issues or concerns before the season even starts. In this meeting, you can earn their trust by clearly laying out your strategies and past coaching experience, as well as what you expect from them and the athletes playing on your team.
Go over any guidelines you have and rules that you impose. For example, the equal distribution of playing time among athletes is important for both them and their parents. Many coaches are all too familiar with the disgruntled mother or father complaining about their child’s lack of playing time. If your philosophy involves adding or taking away minutes on the court based on a player’s attendance, effort, or abilities, let every parent know about this forthright.
Stress the importance of their encouragement as well. A young athlete can thrive in a supportive environment, and few people have such an impact on them like their parents. Ask them to recognize their children’s hard work and attend as many games as they can.
This goes for both your emotions and those of the parents. It’s very easy to get heated as a coach if certain players are performing poorly or just not doing their parts. If your team suffers a fairly big loss, it’s safe to assume most parents will not be happy. For those bold enough to loudly voice their concerns to you directly, let them air their grievances without interruption. Allowing them to get everything out can help them begin to calm down. Once they’re finished, explain your methods and reasoning, and that losses are inevitable. Avoid matching their tone should they be angry, and maintain positivity. Remind them that this is about the athletes, their enjoyment, and their overall development, and that any feelings of ill will toward you or the team will only prevent progress.