how to manage
Parents are, obviously, necessary.
Sometimes they can even be useful! You can, for example, get them to transport
children, fetch balls during practice sessions and provide financial support.
There will, however, be occasions
when you have difficulty with one or more parents. Some may want their child to
play more while others may question your judgment as a coach. You can minimise
the number of times you have to deal with an angry or upset parent by following
before the first practice to discuss your plans and expectations for the season.
Encourage questions from the parents and let them know that you have given a lot
of thought to how you're going to coach their children.
Express appreciation for
their interest and concern. This will make them more open and at ease with you.
Always listen to their
ideas and feelings. Remember, they are interested and concerned because it is
their children that are involved. Encourage parental involvement.
Know what your objectives are and do what you believe to be of value to the team, not to the parents. No coach
can please everyone!
Know the club and game rules.
Be prepared to abide by them and to explain them to parents.
Handle any confrontation
one-on-one and not in a crowd situation. Try not to be defensive. Let the
parent talk while you listen. Often a parent will vent their frustrations just
by talking. Listen to their viewpoint, then thank them for it.
Resist unfair pressure. It
is your responsibility as coach to make the final decision. This doesnít mean
that you canít still listen to parents.
Donít discuss individual
players with other parents. The grapevine will hang you every time. Show the
same respect for each player on the team that you want the parents to show
Ask parents not to criticize
their children in front of anyone else. Donít let your players be
humiliated, even by their own parents.
Donít blame the players
for their parentsí actions.
Be consistent! If you
change a rule or philosophy during the season, you may be in for trouble. At the
very least, inform players and parents of any change as soon as possible.
Most importantly, be fair!
If you treat all your players fairly and equally you will gain their respect and
that of their parents as well.
your children (and their parents) are not all the same. They will have a wide
variety of backgrounds, beliefs and ideals. This diversity is to be
The challenge for you as a coach is to
address these differences in a positive manner so that the season will be
for everyone involved.
with "overly-helpful" parents
If parents have been acting as your
assistants at practices, it is not uncommon for them to want to
continue to participate during games. This is something which you need
to watch closely, for several reasons. First, if other parents see a
"non-coach" giving instructions to players on the field, they are
going to be tempted to start doing this themselves. This will drive
the kids crazy, because "too many cooks" really do spoil things.
Secondly, most parents are going to be watching their own child - and
giving most of their instructions to their own child. This can be very
distracting to the child (even if the instructions are good) because
it takes his attention away from the game and keeps him from using his
own brain to figure things out for himself. Furthermore, many children
simply want praise, praise and more praise from their parents - so any
corrections will be viewed as a public statement of "Boy, you are so
stupid, I hate having you as my kid." Finally, and often most
importantly, the instructions being given by these "helpers" often
tend to be completely wrong - and exactly opposite from what you have
been working on at practice.
What to do? The key is tact - and a
Preseason meeting. Explain to the parents that the kids need to be
able to use the games as learning experiences - and too much criticism
is going to feel to them that the parents view them as failures. Tell
the parents that, on game day, the ONLY thing that you want to hear is
some general praise "Nice job; good shot; unlucky; good idea; etc.").
Tell your assistants that you really appreciate their help, but you
need them to sit in the stands on game day, because you are afraid
that other parents will be tempted to start "helping" by shouting
instructions - and this will drive the kids nuts!
Then, if you have some parent who starts
to give instructions, nip this in the bud early. Each time that the
parent does this, smile and say "Remember the Rule, please." Be good
humoured about it. Make a sign which proclaims the stands as a NO
COACHING ZONE. Bring a gag. But, don't permit this parent to violate
The same goes for parents who want to
yell at opposing players or referees - except that you MUST leap in
hard to prevent this. A very firm "George, we don't yell at the Refs"
- followed by "Sorry, Ref - It won't happen again" - makes it clear to
everyone that you don't like this conduct. Ditto for yelling at
opposing players, but be even more forceful. It is very scary for
smaller players to deal with irate adults - and you need to stop this
immediately. If the parent doesn't listen, tell him to go sit in his
car. Even if this means abandoning the game, or going to get a Club
official to help, it is your obligation to protect these other
children - just as you would want the other coach to protect your
little ones. Besides, if you do not move in quickly, the next thing
that you know, you will have some irate Dad from the other side coming
to see your parent - and all hell could break loose. So, do what you
need to do - but don't tolerate this type of behaviour.
with parental complaints
Almost every parent occasionally
disagrees with your decisions as a coach (whether or not you hear
about it). Usually, the parent is simply putting the interests of the
child first - and seeing things from the child's point of view. Most
parents don't complain, and are more likely to leave the team if they
are unhappy with how things are handled. So, it is good to have
parents who will bother to give you feedback (even if it can be
painful to hear). Most of the time, this feedback is well-intentioned
- and the parent simply wants an explanation for what has happened or
wants to offer some suggestions about alternate ways to do things.
Most of the time, this advice is well-intentioned (and the parent had
no desire whatsoever to take over the team - or to try to order you
Most parents have 2 objectives when they
sign the child up: for the child to succeed and for the child to be
happy. If you praise the child in front of the parent, you can rest
assured that the child will give you a big grin - and you earn points
in both columns. Do this as often as you can - and you will keep
gripes to a minimum. Any time that you start resenting the time that
it takes to give this positive feedback, tell yourself that you could
easily be spending double this time - and a lot less happily - talking
to just one upset parent! In short, a good coach makes the parents
believe that they have wonderful, successful and happy offspring -
which causes the parents to believe that the coach must be an
absolutely brilliant judge of children.
But, of course, you cannot please all of
the people all of the time - and you may end up with a complainer or
advice-giver despite your best efforts. If this happens, listen
briefly to find out what the problem is, then schedule a time to talk
about it. NEVER discuss any serious problem right before a practice
(or right before a game). You have work to do, and don't need the
distractions (and certainly don't need to be upset yourself if any
harsh things are said). Furthermore, if the parent is really upset,
you don't want any confrontation to occur in front of your players or
other parents. So, set the discussion for the end of practice - or
schedule a time to call the parent later (if this is something where
the child does not need to hear the conversation).
NEVER discuss any problems or complaints
right after a game. If a parent comes to you with a complaint right
after a game, make up any excuse that you can and get out of there.
Usually, these complaints come after a hard game and a hard loss, when
everyone is upset. Give everyone time to cool off - so that things are
not said which are regretted later.
When you do talk to the parent, listen
carefully to the parent's problem. Be calm. Try to get them to see
things from your point of view. If at all possible, lavish some praise
on the child during the meeting (remember parental objectives). Try to
verify their reports that the child is unhappy (for instance, some
parents want their child to be the goal-scoring star, while the child
truly is happiest as a keeper or sweeper). Volunteer to have a meeting
with them and the child to talk about the situation. If the child
truly is upset (for instance, he wants to be a forward, while you have
rotated him to the back because he sorely needs to develop some
defensive skills), talk about why you think that this is best. Usually
you will be able to resolve complaints by open communication, and a
calm approach to the problem.
However, some parents simply will not be
satisfied, no matter what you do. This happens quite commonly with
parents who were athletes, and ended up with non-athletic children,
where it is easier to cast blame than to face reality about the
child's lack of talent. If it is clear that you are not getting
anywhere, suggest that you set up a joint meeting with Club officials
to talk about the problem. In the meantime, call the Club to give them
a "heads-up" that they might hear from this parent, if it appears that
the parent is truly irate.
If worse comes to worse, take heart that
"parents-from-hell" tend to stick around for only a short time.
Usually, you will find that they have been very unhappy with every
coach whom their child has ever had - so they go back in the pool
every season. In fact, don't be surprised if, when you call the Club,
you hear a large sigh come out of the phone - along with a comment of
"Oh, no. Not them again."