As a coach, if you have spent any time on the job at all, you know that dealing with parents comes with the territory. It’s unavoidable. But, handling overzealous parents really isn’t covered by most coaches pay scales. In fact, the number one cause of coaching resignations in this country is conflicts with parents. These are the parents who show up at practice demanding to know why their son or daughter isn't getting more playing time. Or, the ones that come up to you at halftime to let you know the plays you called during the first half aren't working, and they have some ideas that might win the game in the second half. I know, you would just like blink your eyes and make “parent problems” go away, but that isn’t going to happen. The best thing to do is to take some steps to minimize parent problems before they happen. Here are some proactive steps you can take to cut down on parent issues and build positive relationships with moms and dads.
- Recognition: Parents are an important part of your team. You need to publically recognize how important a role they play on your team. You need to thank them for their commitment to their son or daughter and everything they do to help them with their team role. Recognize that few people have more influence over your player’s performance on Friday night than mom and dad.
- Organization: Get your stuff together. Write a formal program guide for your football program that details all the ins and outs of your program. Print it and give it to your players parents. Cover team philosophies, discipline, schedules, routines, team standards, etc. It puts parents at ease to know you are organized and have a plan. Let parents know that football is simply a context to teach their sons about “virtue” and that your care for their player goes well beyond the playing field. If parents know that you care for their son or daughter as a person first and not just as a body in a uniform, you will have strong parent support.
- Communication: Parent meetings are critical. Letters, emails, texts, face book, and your cell phone, use them all to communicate with parents. Make sure that every parent has complete contact information for each coach in your program. Open lines of communication and nipping parent rumors and back biting immediately at their source goes a long way to minimizing parent problems.
- Expectations: A lot of parent and player problems are caused by parents and players not having the same expectations regarding their participation in sports. Son is playing for fun and to hang with the guys while Mom and Dad are anticipating all league trophies, a college scholarship, and a shot at the NFL draft. Most parents only know what they see on TV about sports. You need to educate them about the real purpose of sports and the realities surrounding their son or daughters athletic career. Do they know that less than one in 17 of all high school senior boys playing interscholastic football will go on to play football at a NCAA college?
- Education: As a coach, you know more about team participation than a parent will ever know. You should spend quality time teaching mom and dad how to be “great athletic parents”. Cover topics like equipment, proper hydration and nourishment, rest, and academics. Make sure mom, dad, and son are all on the same page as to what sons “role” is on the team. If mom and dad come to the game expecting to see Johnny starting at QB and his role is to write down the plays called from the sideline, you might have a problem. Everyone should understand their role, and take pride in it. When determining player roles and playing time, it always helps me to remember that mom and dad, grandpa and grandma, and uncle buck and aunt betty have driven 100 miles to watch Bobby play. Bobby is the pride and joy of their lives and we should do everything we can to get him in the game.
- Inclusion and Involvement: Get parents involved with team meals, water, academic counseling, etc. Parents want to help but they often don’t know how. Give the most overzealous parents something constructive to do and you will be amazed at how quiet they get.
Finally, and most importantly, as a coach, I always tried to treat parents like I would like to be treated as a parent of a player. Over the years I have coached two brothers, four sons, and several nephews. I think in most parent’s eyes, it’s hard to go wrong when you treat every player with the care you would extend to your own son.