The most common phrase I hear from other coaches is something along the lines of, “I love coaching; I just hate the parents.” And yet, as a youth coach, parents are a big part of our job. So in order to keep your sanity, I hope you understand that parents take some communication training!
Need guidance on what to say? Click the image below to download my letter as a guide! Just plug in your team name and some personalization and you’re all set!
I definitely had my share of parent nightmares, but I also had a lot of great experiences and lasting relationships too. One parent even brought me a bottle of wine after our end-of-the-year banquet when her daughter was a senior and said, “this is special for you this year, we survived the class of ‘XX!”
I think as coaches we can forget that having a teenager at home is no picnic either. We should strive to work with parents rather than fighting them and shutting them out. Our instinct is to tell parents to leave us alone, to ask them to back off, and to shut them out. Instead, I encourage you to develop a healthy two-way communication style with your athlete’s parents. Take the time to teach them your style through simple communication training.
Parents Have Rights and Responsibilities
When their children join a sport, parents have their own responsibilities and expectations. Ultimately, they have the responsibility to help their child grow through sport. Unfortunately, sometimes parents do more harm than good, and interfere with their child’s development. One of the best ways to combat a negative parent is to establish clear roles and responsibilities at the beginning of the season.
Over the years I’ve had some wonderfully supportive parents, and there were a few key things that made them effective. Certainly effective as support for me, but more importantly as a positive influence during their child’s sport experience. My most supportive and involved parents understood their role and their boundaries. They understood what was expected of them from the very beginning and how they could help. Most notably, they understood when to back off and how to support me at home.
It took me years to figure out how to help cultivate those positive parent-coach relationships, and it’s something I wish I understood much sooner. Years into my coaching career I realized I needed to be explicit with parents. To tell them exactly what I expected, what role they were to play, and how they could help. I learned to establish clear two-way communication through communication training.
Keys Principals to Two-Way Communication
- Coaches are willing to answer questions and remain open to parent input when given respectfully
- Parents refrain from disrespectful interactions, either in words or actions
- There is a “proper time and place” procedure in place for parent-coach communication that is honored by both sides. Not during practice, not at competitions, and not in front of the team.
- When disagreements happen, coaches try not to get defensive but listen to what parents have to say. Parents understand that the coach still has the final say, but they have a right to be respectfully heard.
- Parents are often over-enthusiastic and mean well, but don’t realize the trouble they are causing. Coaches should remember they can help point out the problem, tactfully, and help reduce the negative influence of the parent’s actions.
Communication Training – Send home a letter!
In order to lay the foundation for the two-way communication from the beginning, I added an official ‘Letter to Parents’ as a part of my new team packet. When a new dancer made the team, that letter went home and I made sure to address it at our first team meeting. That simple letter alone helped immensely as I tried to cultivate positive coach-parent relationships.
HELP! What do I say to the parents?
Writing a letter to the parents can be daunting. I encourage you to brainstorm for yourself and your own team. Determine how you want your communication style to be expressed to the parents. What is your rule for how a parent should communicate with you when they have a concern? Outlined your expectations of parents, but also alleviate their concerns by making it clear that you do intend to have two-way communication all season. In doing so, you’ll drastically reduce the chance of stress from negative parents.