Meet: Pat Hedges
Role(s): Football Queensland Regional Development Officer & FFA Coach Educator
Can you give us a bit of background information on yourself?
Pat Hedges – 55 years old
Football Queensland Regional Development Officer : GOLD COAST : 2000 – Present
Queensland Academy of Sport, High Performance Coach & Video Analyst : 2013 – Present
FFA Coach Educator : 1997 – Present
Gold Coast Region : Talent Identification Program Manager : 2000 – 20012
Coaching Staff – Gold Coast United : 2008 – 2011
Video Analyst – Gold Coast United : 2008 – 2011
Queensland Academy of Sport, High Performance Coach : 2005 – 2008
Actively coaching since 1985 – Experience at all levels from Grass roots, State, National and “A” League – male and female.
Masters in Sports Coaching / Grad Cert & Diploma in Sports Coaching
AFC / FFA “A” Licence / FFA Football Conditioners Licence / FFA Coach Educator
How would you define a parent(s) role within the youth sports environment?
I will answer this one from the point of view of the environment I am working in at the moment – by it’s very nature the Queensland Academy of Sport / Roar NTC is unashamedly a High Performance program –50% of this group change every year – the older group go on to be looked at by the “A” league National Youth League teams, in our case, Brisbane Roar . The younger incumbents plus a new intake go on to compete in the National Training Centre (NTC) challenge, where all the (allegedly) best 14 and 15 year olds compete. This challenge is used to select the next Australian U17 team.
All stakeholders attend a presentation – where Staff are introduced, the philosophy of the program is explained and protocol’s and process is explained in detail.
The environment is positive and parent/carers are encouraged to follow the lead of the staff – destructive criticism of participants, staff, administrators, officials, opponents is discouraged and education is offered to those parents who wish to better understand the game and the philosophy and the aims of the program.
Staff meet three times over the season with individual players and parents – to discuss player progress/issues and concerns.
In short the parent/care role within our environment is to support them positively during their journey, providing them with a balanced home environment that will give them the best possible chance to become the “best they can be” –
What are the benefits of embracing parental involvement within youth sports?
If all stakeholders (Parent , Player, Club, Coach) are on the same page enjoyment levels rise and issues are kept to a minimum.
Standards and expectations must be made clear , clear lines of communication must always be open and any issues dealt with immediately.
If there is an environment of Honesty, Respect and Commitment between all stakeholders a successful season (however you define success) is assured.
How have you as a coach/club attempted to increase parental involvement?
The main area where a lot time and energy has been expended has been on “sideline behavior (similar to the FA respect campaign) – education seminars, emails, highly visible posters and notices – this is an ongoing project.
Free Coach education courses are being to offered to try and increase the Football knowledge of volunteer Coaches giving them the tools, resources and support to enjoy the experience and return the following year.
What challenges have you faced by attempting to increase the level of parental involvement?
In the grass roots area it is getting increasingly difficult for clubs to increase their volunteer base – parent attitude is now they are paying for a “service” – it is an issue that is not improving.
Have you seen a difference in youth athletes when parental involvement is embraced not neglected and/or ignored?
When the parent/s is given respect, the communication lines are always open and issues are dealt with expediently all stakeholders are happy.
A positive example – we have athletes on our roster who celebrate “Ramadan” and fast during the day for a month – programs are modified to allow the athlete to adhere to his beliefs without compromising his health and wellbeing.
Conflicting programs – we have athletes who because of their talent obtain school scholarships whose programs clash with our program creating possible athlete overload – again in conjunction with the parents with modify loads to assist the athlete ensuring.
What advice would you give coaches that are unsure and/or afraid about increasing parental involvement within youth sports?
Parents are key in a player’s development – they are the primary caregivers, nutritionist, taxi driver etc – in short if you do not get the parent “buy in” you are doomed to fail.
For those parents unaware of their influential role within youth sports, what advice would you give them?
Parent attitudes can range from one extreme to the other – from being protective, to the aggressive parent who believes he has the next David Beckham living in the upstairs bedroom, plus those who take “zero” interest. Unfortunately, those who are totally supportive are generally minority in Grassroots sport.
It can be difficult to “advise “ parents, they tend to get ‘defensive” – I would always deal with issues generally in a group education scenario in the Grassroots arena.
In my current environment if it is felt that a parent’s influence is affecting performance, an early intervention would be arranged and the specific issue addressed.
What is next for you as a coach / club / organization?
A great question – and one I cannot answer, I currently love my role and how it allows me to influence, positively I hope, across a wide spectrum – if I continue to do my best I shall rely on serendipity to do the rest.
Thank you Pat for taking the time to complete the following interview questions.
The Sporting Influencer