Coaches often look at parents as a potential problem in a program - and they can be if you let them, but they can also be your biggest resource. When you communicate and can get them on your side, there is no stopping the places you can go. Laying out expectations early on and getting the parents to "buy into" your system is a major step in creating a Positive culture where everyone is working towards a common goal to improve the program.
There are far too many potential jobs or duties to run a successful team, and that can become burdensome for any coach or staff. Convincing parents the value of assisting in these responsibilities creates some ownership and much can more can be accomplished. At worst, it will follow the old adage, "keep your friends close, and your enemies closer".
I like to take all the potential duties and find something every family can contribute to. For example, on a youth baseball team of twelve players, you could have: 1)Manager 2) Assistant Coach 3) Assistant Coach 4)Scorekeeper 5) Pitch Count 6) Team Mom 7)Snack Schedule 8)Fundraising 9)Team Photos 10)Team Parties 11)Field Maintenance 12)Field Maintenance. When everyone pitches in and pulls a little bit of weight there becomes a much greater sense of camaraderie. This togetherness trickles down to the players and can only help.
As a parent, be involved in a positive way. Attend your child’s games as often as you can. Cheer for all the kids on the team. If you’re not sure how to help, ask the coach. There are a bunch of ways to be a good team member and a good parent at the same time. Help with fund raising. Assist with logistics. When the larger definition of team is working well, the experience can be wonderful for everyone involved. People who see your program in action will want to be a part of it. Parents looking ahead to when their child will be old enough to participate at that level will want to fit in and help. This kind of teamwork perpetuates itself. Once it gets momentum, it can be quite a force. It just takes parents who care...and a coach who enables them by getting that momentum started.
Please don’t talk bad about the coach in front of your child. The worst thing a parent can do is take pot shots at the coach, criticizing decisions, and complaining about his leadership. Support the coach and stand behind his decisions.
Don’t blame the coach for your child’s problems or lack of playing time. Your child´s struggles to succeed are your child’s problems. Let him work them out without your interference. A player has every right to ask a coach what needs to be done to earn more playing time, for example. But a parent stepping in to demand playing time is another thing altogether.
One of the biggest lessons we can give our children is empowering them to Have an adult conversation with a figure of authority about something in which they disagree. Not a "whiney/I didn't get my way" kind of conversation, but a mature one that presents a concern, discusses the problem, and ultimately accepts the answer or decision.
If a player is not prepared to have that conversation, prepare them with a little role-play. Then send them to the coach to have the conversation. If they still don't want to have that conversation it may just be more important to us than it is to them.
Please don’t harass the refs. Parents that loudly harass the referee are embarrassing to the player and the team. When a parent makes a spectacle of himself at a game, the player is embarrassed. If the ref is being yelled at by a parent for a bad call (by definition, a bad call is any decision made against the parent’s child), what does the player learn? He learns that the mistake wasn’t his fault. It was the result of poor officiating. This is a bad habit to get into. Don´t encourage your child to place the blame for their failures upon others. One of the benefits of playing sports is learning to accept responsibility instead of making excuses. Sometimes a call is hard to take for whatever reason. Such times are tests of emotional control. If a player can learn to bite his lip and move on, a parent can learn to sit quietly for a moment and let the emotion pass. Learning to cope with disappointment is a valuable life skill.
Please don’t razz the other team’s players. The other team's players should be considered off limits. Yelling at or deriding someone else’s child is a shameful practice for an adult at a sporting event. Parents who intend to disrupt, distract or upset players exhibit the worst of poor sportsmanship.
Here are some guidelines for parents to give their children who participate in sports. Three simple rules: First, once you start, you finish. Do not allow your children to quit a team for any reason (oth than personal or psychological safety). It may feel good at the time, but quitting has a long standing effect. Second, the coach’s decision is final. Do not intercede or interfere whether you like a decision or not. Third, teach the player do whatever it takes to make the team successful. Personal glory pales in relationship to team success.
The following guidelines are adapted from Positive Coaching: Building Character and Self-Esteem Through Sports by Jim Thompson, the founder and leader of the Positive Coaching Alliance.
Research is clear that when parents and teachers work together a child tends to do better in school. There is no reason to think that it is any different in youth sports. The following are some guidelines for how parents can contribute to a Coach/Parent Partnership that can help the athlete have the best possible experience.
Recognize the Commitment the Coach Has Made: For whatever reason, you have chosen not to help coach the team. The coach has made a commitment that involves many, many hours of preparation beyond the hours spent at practices and games. Recognize his commitment and the fact that he is not doing it because of the pay! Try to remember this whenever something goes awry during the season.
Make Early, Positive Contact with the Coach: As soon as you know who your child’s coach is going to be, contact her to introduce yourself and let her know you want to help your child have the best experience she can have this season. To the extent that you can do so, ask if there is any way you can help. By getting to know the coach early and establishing a positive relationship, it will be much easier to talk with her later if a problem arises.
Fill the Coach's Emotional Tank: When the coach is doing something you like, let him know about it. Coaching is a difficult job and most coaches only hear from parents when they want to complain about something. This will help fill the coach’s emotional tank and contribute to his doing a better job. It also makes it easier to raise problems later when you have shown support for the good things he is doing. And just about every coach does a lot of things well. Take the time to look for them.
Don't Put the Player in the Middle: Imagine a situation around the dinner table, in which a child"s parents complain in front of her about how poorly her math teacher is teaching fractions. How would this impact this student’s motivation to work hard to learn fractions? How would it affect her love of mathematics? While this may seem farfetched, when we move away from school to youth sports, it is all too common for parents to share their disapproval of a coach with their children. This puts a young athlete in a bind. Divided loyalties do not make it easy for a child to do her best. Conversely, when parents support a coach, it is that much easier for the child to put her wholehearted effort into learning to play well. If you think your child"s coach is not handling a situation well, do not tell that to the player. Rather, seek a meeting with the coach in which you can talk with her about it.
Don't Give Instructions During a Game or Practice: You are not one of the coaches, so do not give your child instructions about how to play. It can be very confusing for a child to hear someone other than the coach yelling out instructions during a game. As in #4 above, if you have an idea for a tactic, go to the coach and offer it to him. Then let him decide whether he is going to use it or not. If he decides not to use it, let it be. Getting to decide those things is one of the privileges he has earned by making the commitment to coach.
Fill Your Child's Emotional Tank: Perhaps the most important thing you can do is to be there for your child. Competitive sports are stressful to players and the last thing they need is a critic at home. Be a cheerleader for your child. Focus on the positive things she is doing and leave the correcting of mistakes to the coach. Let her know you support her without reservation regardless of how well she plays.
Fill the Emotional Tanks of the Entire Team: Cheer for all of the players on the team. Tell each of them when you see them doing something well.
Encourage Other Parents to Honor the Game: Don"t show disrespect for the other team or the officials. But more than that, encourage other parents to also Honor the Game. If a parent of a player on your team begins to berate the official, gently say to them, "Hey, that"s not Honoring the Game. That"s not the way we do things here."
For more tips from Positive Coaching Alliance, visit http://www.positivecoach.org/our-tools/tools-for-parents/
This Coach-Parent Partnership is not a one way street by any stretch of the imagination. It is not only parents who need to give. Many coaches, I believe, view this partnership as an adversarial relationship from the start and try to minimize communication - which may be the worst thing to do.
All too often, the root of all problems becomes discussions over playing time, and coaches try to avoid this conversation like the plague. I like to re frame that conversation from "why isn't my son/daughter playing" to "what can my son/daughter improve on so they can earn more playing time". I'll have that conversation any day.
We talk all the time as a staff about coaching the way we would want our son or daughter to be coached. We call this "Parenting the Program". We would expect the coach, first and foremost, to be fair. We would want the coach to display patience and understanding with our child and the team. We want to be clear and concise in how we teach, giving the player the know-how to perform, and then help them towards improvement, while encouraging them all the way and Relentlessly Rewarding Desired Effort.
Most of all we want to treat the player with the same respect that we ask of them. Scold and discipline when necessary, but re-teach and praise immediately following. We never want a player to leave the gym with a negative impression of how the coaches feel about them. We all would like to win (PCA's first goal), but as a Double-Goal Coach we need to recognize the self-esteem and life lessons our players are learning (the second goal) are far more important.
Every Sports Parent should consider the obligation of being a Second-Goal Parent an d focus on the life-lessons your child is learning. Leave the winning and performance up to the players and coaches. Remember, even if we have the worst coach on the worst team and finish with the worst record - it can still be a positive and productive season if we focus on the life-lessons learned. Prior to next season take a look at this Parent Pledge, committing to the supportive behavior of a Second-Goal Parent. Be a Culture Keeper and contribute to the positive environment that every child deserves when they play sports. We're all in this together.