Advice for coaches on how to deal with parents

Ask any coach around the world for some of the problems in youth sport and they will 100% mention parents. For the most part there are no problems, but there will always be one or two who take up a little more of your time for various reasons. I have found that getting in early with them and being consistent will help to minimise the number of issues you encounter.

Here’s how can do this…

The first thing to do is set a meeting for all parents,  where you can do a number of things:

  • Talk about your coaching philosophy and link it to the club’s philosophy/mission statement.

This allows the parents to get a feel for you as a person and how you will interact with their kids. By linking it back to the club’s philosophy/mission statement where possible, it shows that both coach and club are on the same page, which is important.

  • Talk about what you will be working on this season.

You don’t have to go into any major details here but just a general overview is fine. For example, with an under 14 group that I worked with, at the start of the Fall Season in the US, I talked about wanting to improve on our attacking play in the system that we used as a club. All 11v11 teams in the club primarily played with a 1-4-3-3 so the focus would be how our front 3 would operate, linking in our number 10, 8 and so on, as well as talking about how I wanted our full backs to offer our width going forward. This is important so that parents can judge the team’s improvement with this in mind rather than results and they know that for the next few months that this is what you will be working on to improve.

  • Set out any rules and expectations.

It is very important to stick by these. If you have a rule about not starting the next game for being late to training without prior warning/ a valid reason then you MUST keep to that, no matter what game is up next, even if the next game is a cup final. If you don’t stick to this, the parents will know and it will cause you significant issues with regards to not being fair.

Another thing to communicate here is what your club’s policy is on playing time. Whatever it is then make sure you stick to it. You do have an opportunity to caveat it here, for example one that I have used previously is, players will play at least half the game, but in cup games, subs will be based purely on the game situation as our aim is to make it through to the next round. I would add in here that even though your son or daughter may play a little less in this cup game, this will be made up in the following games so that by the end of the season, they have played at least the minimum number of minutes.

  • Keep the door open….but not straight after a match.

Let the parents know that you are always happy to have a chat with them but to refrain from approaching you with issues straight after a match. This avoids any unnecessary conflict and gives the parent the opportunity to calm down if they are quite animated about a particular issue.

Post Meeting:

Continue the communication! You can do this by sending periodical emails with an update on the team, what you have been working on and your thoughts about their development to date. I know of some coaches who do this weekly but I prefer to send an email out every few weeks.The reason I do this periodically is because I think that weekly makes the emails less impactful. By bringing together a few weeks of a season, you can highlight improvements quite well using a run of games and I think parents are more likely to read it, rather than it being lost in someone’s inbox every week. I would recommend never referring to a score in this email (I don’t think it is particularly important…think big picture about player and squad development with this email), I think it is best to comment on the game in general in terms of what they did well, what they can improve and also reference your team’s performance in line with what you have been working on in training. So if you have been working on playing out of the back, reference some moments where this was done well and where the room for improvement is going forward.

All of the above has certainly worked for me in recent years and I would be very curious to hear other ideas on how to help reduce issues with parents and ultimately build a strong relationship with them.

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