The world of youth sports is growing and evolving in an attempt to pursue the ultimate dream. While this continues at a rapid pace, the role of young sports parents has increased dramatically.
Many sports parents certainly provide a positive environment for players to express themselves freely and to be guided throughout. But coaches should not expect each parent to approach the game with the same amount of knowledge and open-mindedness. As a result, it is important to engage parents that allow them to be informed, educated and supported. Change may be initially complex, individualistic to each child and family, and most likely time-consuming, but the benefits are unquestionable.
Many coaches would say that they do not have enough time to involve their parents or simply admit that they do not do enough to communicate with them (parents). If we consider the average coaching session, which lasts between 1 hour and 1 hour 30 minutes (depending on age), once or twice a week alongside 1 game on the weekend, resulting in approximately 5-9 hours of contact time per week. This also adds to the importance of how influential the role of parents is in sports.
Use the standard communication tool via e-mail, i.e. game info, statistics, any organisational and/or club changes, questions or concerns, etc.
Within the sports community, coaches and/or associations sometimes have trouble communicating and engaging with parents. Communication breakdowns, confrontation, and often power struggles and control over the development of individual players sometimes emerge. A model ‘Athletic Triangle’ as viewed above is underpinned by studies from fields such as sports psychology and family system theories for which the integration of the coach/parent/athlete from a sporting context has been advocated best to support such collaboration.
The model is a great illustration that clearly shows all stakeholders that would have to work together for the best interest of the child and the player. Coaches/clubs need to dedicate and engage in a positive and continuous relationship with each individual ‘athletic triangle’ for such a theory to become successful in practice.
Each athletic triangle should identify and anticipate components of relationships such as mutual trust, confidence, encouragement, cooperation and communication that lead to an increased level of participation, engagement and, more importantly, enjoyment for each player. If managed efficiently and continuously, a better learning and enjoyable environment and culture could be developed, which also focuses on the needs of each player, with the acknowledgement that everyone is working in tandem. The model is a clear statement that puts the needs and desires of each player firmly first. However, sadly, if the coach/club neglects such an approach, the model raises the risk of becoming adult dominant and puts a greater focus on the needs of coaches and/or parents.
Coaches and organisations need to have the skills and qualities to involve, support and involve parents, which helps them to “buy into” the framework and culture of the club. This can be accomplished by setting the scene from the beginning of the season with parents’ meetings, along with continuous interaction by using one of the previous tips highlighted on the previous page. This must be a manifestation, not a single intervention of incorporating and empowering such a tool into the environment over time.
I have held several pre-season meetings with some youth team parent groups from personal experiences and failed to hold with others in complete contrast. Over the year, the difference between both methods was simply interesting to observe, unintentionally or not. This made it plainly clear to me the importance of allocating sufficient time to conduct a pre-season parent meeting to begin the process, but also the need to continue this with different approaches, i.e. emails, conversations with people, messages, apps, etc.
Why the Athletic Triangle works?
- Creating and maintaining the triad personal & professional relationships
- Coaches gain an increased level of support and greater understating of the club and/or coach expectations by parents and players
- Highlighting and educating parents and players on their roles and responsibilities
- Decreasing the risk of issues or concerns arising.
- Improves the child’s level of enjoyment and sporting experience
- Social and athletic development
- Open communication between all – Everyone is on the same page.
I must highlight that you must always consider the information and how you will interrupt any information, role and responsibilities to parents. One size fits all; does not apply, it’s about knowing what works for you.
The Sporting Influencer