The key to communicating effectively with your child’s coach

written by Gordon MacLelland

Many parents can find this incredibly tough and finding the right balance is not always easy.   Some parents are afraid to communicate anything with their child’s coach as they may be perceived to be pushy, unhinged or interfering.  They do not wish to rock the boat for their child and sometimes build up negative feelings, often keeping them to themselves.

Other parents can be overly involved and vocal both in their support and in their conversations with the coach, often overstepping the mark in what should be a healthy two way relationship.

As an organisation we do a lot of work with coaches around how they can build positive relationships with parents and we hopefully provide a number of tips and strategies for coaches to use via our presentation and in our pocketbook ‘Engage.’

Hopefully, as parents you will find a coach who is able to communicate well with you, establishes solid boundaries and who is proactive in keeping you informed of any information that you may require to make your job as a parent as straight forward as possible.

Many breakdowns in communication come from the fact that most coaches are trying to focus on their team and the development of all the players whilst parents are simply looking out for their own child and trying to protect them from any negative experiences.

Most of the unreasonable behaviour from sporting parents can come when they feel that their child has been hard done by.  This is totally understandable, but as a parent you need to give yourself some time and space and check whether you have everything in perspective.  Things can look very different even 24 hours after an event or when you have taken yourself  away from the sporting environment.

This is why we recommend that coaches and parents give themselves a cooling off period of 48 hours after a potential issue before attempting to have a productive conversation.

There is no doubt that as parents you will always see the best in your child, that is your right and totally normal.  However, it can cause conflict as a coaches role is to look after all of the players in a group.

With this in mind…..

What can you do as a parent to ensure that your side of the bargain is both healthy and effective?

Focus on your own child and their development

You are responsible for just your child.  Speak to the coach about them, ask questions directly about them to help aid their progress only.  Try not to bring other players into any other discussion or argument.  If you ask questions about your child be prepared for some constructive feedback, some of which you may not want to hear, but know that it could be useful in helping your child reach their potential.

Ask questions rather than offer opinions

This can be difficult, but in most cases we have to assume that the coach has their role and you are in your role as a parent.  In most cases the coach should have more expertise.  Try to ensure that you ask questions that allow constructive feedback as opposed to asking for reasons’ why’ your child may or may not be doing something.  The ‘why’ types of questions can often lead to conflict as coaches will see them as attacks on their judgement.

Get your timing right

Timing is key here.  As mentioned above, immediately after an incident is not ideal and likewise we hope that your child’s coach has set clear boundaries as to when they are available to talk.  There is nothing worse from a coaches perspective than people not respecting their time away from their sport and contacting them at times that they may be spending with their own family or pursuing their own interests.  If there is a real issue then you need to decide how you are going to approach it.  Will it be just you as parents or is it right for your child to be present?  Ensure that your communication is at an appropriate time that has been set out prior to the start of a season.

Get your method of communication right

Sometimes if it is a lengthy and serious dialogue that you require then text, email and social media messages are not the way to go about it.  Much can be lost in translation using these forms of communication.  A face to face conversation is often the best way to go, both parties can show their feelings and both can ask questions where appropriate.  It is more likely to result in a free flowing, productive conversation.  In face to face dialogue we sometimes recommend that coaches and parents walk and talk.  It can sometime stop this feeling of confrontation and an ‘us’ and ‘them’ scenario, as you face each other across a table.

Exchange pleasantries on a regular basis

This may seem an obvious one but can do lots to build a connection with your child’s coach.  Not everything has to be a lengthy dialogue.  Good mornings, thank yous, what have you got planned for the rest of the weekend for example as a question allow you to at least touch base and let the coach know that you appreciate what they are doing for your child.

All of these communication tips and strategies are highly effective.  We hope that you will be able to find some use in these and use some of them in the very near future, if you are not already.

We must remember that this is a three way relationship between you, your child and their coach.  Try and do your very best as a parent to fulfil your role and lets hope that the coaches that your children are involved with, do their very best to ensure that any conversations to be had with you, are also both healthy and productive.

Guest Blog by Gordon MacLelland

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