Athletic Triangle

In the United States (US) alone, more than 40million youngsters under the age of 18 participate in youth sports according to (Mechanick & Gould. 2013). Most of which are registered within the 6,000 US clubs and trained and guided by about 300,000 coaches, most which are volunteers (US Youth Soccer). The world surrounding youth sport is ever-growing, with clubs (programs) locally, regionally and state wide are evolving. We can easily identify from these statistics that parental involvement has dramatically increased within sport. All the information and resources available for parents today, allows them to be up-to-date and educated in sport. Many youth sport parents provide youth players a positive environment to freely express themselves. Yet, coaches shouldn’t expect every parent to posses the same amount of knowledge and open-mindedness surrounding youth sports. The mindset behind change is complex and individualistic, especially when you’re attempting to alter a sporting culture in terms of parental involvement. According to (Women’s sport medicine program) if parents are educated and understand their roles and responsibilities they are more likely to be supportive of the coach and/or program. Some, coaches continue to neglect the need to involve and collaborate with parents, due to prioritizing other areas within the coaching environment, highlighting the lack of time available, unsure of how educate parents and lack of personal confidence. Additionally, coaches comment on the stressors involved with parent involvement, we should be embracing and enhancing parental involvement at all levels. This certainty makes the role of the modern coach far broader than simply coaching The following blog will highlight the benefits of collaborating with parents.

“The Athletic Triangle” from Mechanick, & Gould, 2013.Picture1

The interpersonal relationships between the parent, coach and athlete are often referred to as the athletic triangle (See picture) (Wylleman, 2000). “The Athlete Triangle” model is a great example of all parties that need to positively collaborate within the youth sport environment to potentially enhance the sporting experience for all (Mechanick, & Gould, 2013). The best teams (Programs) have a committed and interactive collaboration between all parties involved (Robinson, 2010). Coaches and parents need to understand and consider relationship components such as, mutual trust, belief, support, cooperation and communication that accumulate and contribute towards an increased level of performance success and satisfaction for the young athlete. (Jowett  &  Cockerill,  2003;  Poczwardowski,  Henschen,  &  Barott, 2002;  Wylleman,  2000). If effective and maintained, thus in turn will create a better learning and enjoyable environment that also focuses on the needs and interest of the youth player. Parent’s input can increase the value of sport participation for their children’s physical, psychological, and social development (Mechanick, & Gould,2013). The athletic triangle is a clear statement that firmly places that athlete at the top, if the coach/club neglects such approach, the model unfortunately becomes adult dominant and places a greater emphasis on the needs of coach’s and/or parents (Women’s sport medicine program).  Coaches and parent’s must construct a level of understanding in terms of expectations, roles and responsibilities also the variation of open-communication that places the intentions of the athlete first. The communication component will be discussed in greater depth within the next blog.

Its vital as a coach that we foster the triad relationship to gain support and increasing further understanding with parents i.e. purpose of youth sport, long term player development (LTPD), effective communication between all, contrasts between professional and youth soccer, parental roles and responsibilities. (These will be covered in greater depth within the upcoming blogs.) All contribute towards lessening the need for concern and/or issues that may arise from parents or players. We’ve all had experiences with a minority of parent(s) that may “know-it-all” or have played or watched soccer for “x” amount of years, thus defining themselves as experts. However, the best coaches have confidence to interpret research and theory and apply this in a creative dynamic way (Nesti & Sully, 2015). Coaches need to have the knowledge and communication skills to educate the parents, that provides them an opportunity to “buy into” the club structure. It’s imperative that we continue to enhance and educate the majority and begin the education process for the minority.

From personal experiences, I’ve conducted multiple pre-season meetings with several youth team(s) parent groups over the years and due to other circumstances I’ve failed to conduct with other(s). The contrast in both approaches were simply fascinating to witness, experience and learn from. This made it evidently clear to me, the importance of allocating sufficient time to conduct a pre-season parent meeting, making sure that all parties involved understood their roles and responsibilities, before facing the possibility of dealing with concerned parents.

Why the Athletic Triangle works?

  • Creating and maintaining the triad personal & professional relationships
  • Coaches gain an increased level of support and greater understating of 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 to arise.
  • Improves the child’s level of enjoyment and sporting experience
  • Social and athletic development
  • Open-communication between all – Everyone on the same page.

It’s important that I highlight that you must always consider the information and how you’ll will interrupt any information, role and responsibilities to parents. One size fits all; does not apply.

The next blog will focus on the importance of communicate between all the parties involved in the athletic triangle.


Blom, L. C., Visek, A. J., & Harris, B. S. (2013). Triangulation in Youth Sport: Healthy Partnerships among Parents, Coaches, and Pracititioners. Applied Sport Psychology, 4, 86-96.

Mechanick,I.J & Gould,D. (2013). Effective Education and Development of Youth Sport Coaches. President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition. 14 (4), 1-10.

Jowett, S. (2005). On enhancing and repairing the coach-athlete relationship. In S. Jowett, & M. V. Jones (Eds.), Psychology of sport coaching. Sport and Exercise Psychology Division (pp. 14-26). Leicester: The British Psychological Society.

Jowett, S., & Cockerill, I. M. (2003). Olympic medallists’ perspective of the athlete-coach rela- tionship. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 4, 313-331.

Poczwardowski, A., Henschen, K. P., & Barott, J. E. (2002). The athlete and coach: Their rela- tionship and its meanings. Results of an interpretive study. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 33, 116-140.

Smith, R. E., & Smoll, F. L. (2007). Social-cognitive approach to coaching behaviours. In S. Jowett & D. Lavallee (Eds.), Social psychology in sport (pp. 75-90). Champaign,IL:Human Kinetics.

Smoll,L.F, Cumming, S.P & Smith, R.E. (2011). nhancing Coach-Parent Relationships in Youth Sports. Increasing Harmony and Minimizing Hassle. 6 (1), 13-26.

Nesti, M & Sully, C (2015). Youth Development in Football: Lessons from the World’s Best Academies. London: Routledge . 1-123.

Wylleman, P. (2000). Interpersonal relationships in sport: Uncharted territory. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 31, 1-18.

Webiste: (Last Accessed 11/12/2015)



Tim Bradbury – @TimBDOCI – USSF A , NSCAA Master coach, US youth NYL, Batchelor of Ed hons, DOC ENYYSA, Director of Education UK Elite, NSCAA National Staff,US Soccer Regional staff

“Good Read”  

Coach Reed – @Coach_Reed – Executive Director  | Speaker   | Writer   

“Loved the article. You pulled together great research. Asserting something “different” but backed by science is great!”


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