Most coaches probably went into the profession because they love the game and they love building relationships with players, whatever age that may be. However, more and more coaches are having to deal a lot with another group of people: parents. While it can be difficult and stressful, building a relationship with your players’ parents is an absolute necessity. It doesn’t have to be a headache, if done right, player parents can be a big supporter of your program and become a part of the team family as well as the player’s home family.
If you ask a veteran coach what the most difficult or frustrating aspect of their job, they will more than likely say dealing with parents. In fact, most coaches that I know that have quit or taken a hiatus from coaching usually do that for parent reasons as well. It doesn’t have to be like this! Sure, you will definitely deal with some unreasonable people. But that happens in all jobs! You have to build a relationship with the parents to make them feel like they are part of their children’s team. This starts with clear expectations before any games or even practices have started.
Most coaches have a chunk of time in their preseason meetings in which they address expectations for all involved: coaches, players, parents, etc. However, a lot of times these expectations are thrown out the window the minute the games start. You have to be consistent and willing to possibly upset people if it is what is best for your team. A big rule that I see a lot is that coaches want parents to not talk to them about playing time or other issues immediately after a contest. This is a great rule that makes a ton of sense! However, I see it get broken every single season. I understand that parents get emotional and they want their child to get a fair shake. However, if you are going to have this rule, you have to be consistent with it. If a parent comes up and needs to discuss an issue with you, be polite and say that you cannot talk about it right now but you can set up a meeting to discuss any concerns. Remind them that this was discussed at the beginning of the season and the rules have to be followed. If you can get parents to follow this rule then they there is a much less likely chance that someone makes an emotional decision. Have a meeting when both parties have calmed down and the team will benefit from it.
Involving your players with expectations can also help keep parent issues at a minimum. I always tell players and parents that I want the player to talk to me first if it is an issue involving him or her. This allows me to communicate with the player and tell them what I feel they can do to improve their situation. Next, if the issue cannot be worked out, the parent can talk to me. I will explain that I always have time to talk as long as it’s been an arranged meeting and not immediately after a game. Finally, I will ask them to keep issues in house whenever possible. All of the time we see parents immediately go to the community members or athletic directors when they don’t like something about their child’s coach. I feel this is the quickest way to bring a team down. I will explain to both players and parents that we need to all be in this for each other to truly become a team.
Finally, I will try to make parents a part of the program whenever possible. If you can give the parents something to do like being in charge of team meals or maybe even doing some statistics or filming for you, they become a part of the program. If they feel like they are more connected to the program then they will likely become more loyal to you as a coach. I feel a program works better when everyone shows loyalty to one another.
Hopefully this helps you deal with your parents. I know it can be a difficult part of the job but it doesn’t have to always be a problem. If you communicate expectations, stay consistent in following those expectations, and have good communication with your parents then your program should run smoothly.