With an increased number of teams, academies, development centres, coaching clinics, 1-2-1 coaching etc becoming available for young players to participate and develop in youth sports. Parents at times are overwhelmed, surprised or uninformed of their roles and responsibilities after registering their sons/daughters. Every club and/or coach should take it upon themselves to involve parents positively, as we know from literature parents have been highlighted as one of the major influences on a child’s level of enjoyment and participation within a particular sport. Within the current modern environment of youth sports and the continual comparison between youth sport and the elite game (Adults), parental involvement and influence have dramatically increased and also intensified. According to Brooke de Lench, executive director of MomsTEAM Institute, “Sports parents are more intense and push their kids more now than ever before,”. It’s therefore, vitally important that coaches collaborate with parents (See – Athletic Triangle).
If parents were to develop a greater level of understanding of their role, responsibilities, and the sport with a developed two-way communication with the club/coach, they’d become to appreciate and enjoy their child’s participation. Considering such a statement coaches can utilize their role, influence, and knowledge base to become a respected and vital resource for parents within the youth sporting environment. It’s important to reiterate that, communication between coach and parent, shouldn’t be one way, I encourage a two-way communication approach to have the best results in relation to a child’s level of enjoyment, participation and, development.
Before committing to a team and/or coach #TheSportingInfluencers (Defined as Parents) should be encouraged to discuss and question all that surrounds their child’s participation in sport. My advice to parents would be, to attempt to understand and learn about the club, its philosophy, the coach’s experiences and, qualifications etc
Below are some questions parents could possibly ask whilst selecting a team or coach:
- How much experience have you had in teaching children? At what age(s)?
- What has been your experience and background with this sport?
- Why have you decided to be a coach?
- Who was the best coach you have ever been coached by why? What coach do you most admire?
- What role do you prefer for parents to play within your team organization?
- How will you handle decisions on whom and how much each child will practice/compete?
- What do you expect to accomplish in each practice? Is that the same expectation you have during competition?
- What is your coaching philosophy?
- How do you continue to learn and improve as a coach?
Parents can ask questions that they can think of to help them determine if this person and/or program suits them? Where the competitive drive balances with allowing young individual(s) to gain experience and develop in a positive and inclusive environment. We must appreciate and recognize our right to greater understand the youth sporting environment that they choose to place their child within. As every child should be participating in an environment that focuses on player development, balanced competitiveness, participation, personal growth and most importantly fun.
Let’s move on, and imagine parents have selected the most appropriate and player-centred team/coach and discuss the benefits of two-way communication. Firstly, if coaches maintain open and transparent communication with parents, it will lead to greater levels of personal relationships between coaches and parents.
Making it perfectly clear, adopting two-way communication does not mean taking advantage of open communication and becoming intrusive and disrespecting the coach vocally and/or physical. Providing parents with two-way communication offers an opportunity for parents to positively highlight the work completed by the coach and/or underline any concerns that might occur during the season. Having emphasized and experienced such an approach within my own coaching, one component that influences two-way communication is the appropriate timing of conversation(s). A number of coaches could relate to the story of parents approaching them after a practice, game or competition to highlight their frustrations and/or concerns surrounding a certain topic. These types of discussions shouldn’t take place because they’re infused with emotion, coaches should highlight appropriate times to discuss any concerns i.e. 24 hours after an event.
The biggest basis of most concerns/problems that may arise between parents and coaches are related to the notion of “disagreement”. These disagreements may surround multiple components, for example, coaching methodologies, playing times, player assessments, development v winning-at-all-costs, style of play, the role of the parent etc. Within any two-way discussion that may take place 24 hours after an event, it’s important that we demonstrate adequate listening skills and really digest what is being said before responding. We should avoid responding defensively. A small concern may drive into a much bigger problem if responded defensively, both parties involved should attempt to become open-minded to what is being said. As the Athletic Triangle highlights the athlete should be placed first not the needs of parents and/or coaches.
With previous experiences involving and creating an open-two-way communication with parents, if any discussions were to privately take place, I would always ask the club’s director of coaching (DOC) or assistant coach to be present at all times. Additionally, attending with the program’s parents’ code of conduct policy. It’s important that clubs/coaches continue to highlight the role and responsibilities of parents if they were to overstep their role and/or behaviour. The role of parents in youth sports is defined by Rowley, (1986) as: “The primary role of the parent in youth sports is to provide emotional, financial and provisionary support for their children”. At the start of any discussion, it should be emphasized and highlighted that the purpose of conducting such an open discussion is to reach a mutual agreement and resolution to any concern raised, that is concentrated in the best interests of the player(s).
We should recognize that a majority of parents are enthusiastic and wholeheartedly want the best for their children. Many parents merely don’t understand their role in youth sports and how it affects the young athletes participating. It’s our duty and responsibility to educate them. Let’s communicate and involve parents as much as possible, working together you’ll create positive role models and allow them to enjoy the sport whilst observing their child participate and compete in youth sports.
The Sporting Influencer