With an increased number of programs (teams) becoming available for young players to participate within youth sports. Parents at times are overwhelmed, surprised or uninformed of their roles and responsibilities. Every program and/or coach should take it upon themselves to involve parents positively, as we know from literature (Clark, 2008; Kremer-Sadlik & Kim,2007) 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 soccer and the continual comparison between youth sport and the professional (adult) game, parental involvement has dramatically increased. 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 vitally important that coaches and program collaborate with parents, that places the child’s best interests first (See – Athletic Triangle). As identified by (Smith, & Smoll, 2007) if parents were to develop a greater level of understanding of their role, responsibilities, and the sport, they’d become to appreciate and enjoy their child’s participation (Babkes & Weiss, 1999; Brustad, 1988). Considering such statement coaches, therefore, can utilize their role, power, 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.
Before committing to a program and/or coach, the sporting influence (Defined as: Parents) should be encouraged to discuss and question all that surrounds their child’s participation in sport(s). My advice to parents would be, attempt to gauge an understanding of the program and coaches philosophy and personal experiences.
Below are some of the invaluable questions parents could possibly be asked whilst selecting a program:
- 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?
Reference: (WOMEN’S SPORTS MEDICINE PROGRAM/SPORTS MEDICINE CENTER)
Parents can develop any questions that they can think of to help them determine if this person and/or program are a devoted child advocate who can swallow personal competitive drive and allow young individual(s) to gain experience and develop in a positive way? (WOMEN’S SPORTS MEDICINE PROGRAM/SPORTS MEDICINE CENTER). Programs, coaches, and parents must appreciate and recognize the right of each sporting influencer to greater understand the youth sporting environment that they choose to place their child. As every child should be participating in an environment that focuses on player development, long-life participation, personal growth and most importantly fun.
Let’s move on, and imagine parents have selected the most appropriate and player-cantered program and coach and discuss the importance and benefits of a two-way communication. Firstly, if coaches maintain an open and transparent communication with parents, thus, in turn, will lead to greater levels of personal relationship between coaches and parents (Smith, & Smoll, 2007).
Making it perfectly clear, adopting a two-way communication does not mean taking advantage of an open communication and becoming intrusive and disrespecting the coach vocally and/or physical. Providing parents with a 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 approach within my own coaching, one component that influences the 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 discussion shouldn’t take place because they’re infused by emotion, organizations and/or coaches should highlight appropriate times to discuss any concerns i.e. 24 hours after an event.
According to (Smith, & Smoll, 2007) 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 one component or multiple components, for example, coaching methodologies, playing times, player assessments, development v winning-at-all-costs, style of play, a 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 program’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 programs and coaches continue to highlight the role and responsibilities of parents if they were to overstep their role and/or behavior. The role of parents in youth sport 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 with a third party in attendance (DOC or Assistant Coach), it should be emphasized and highlighted that the purpose of conducting such open discussion is to reach a mutual agreement and resolution to any concern raised, that is concentrated in the best interests of the athlete.
Any programs and coaches should recognize that a majority of parents are enthusiastic and wholeheartedly want the best for their child. It’s only due to the minority of those that negatively influence the youth sporting environment as they view the game through their own perspective and compare youth soccer to adult soccer. Many parents merely understand what they are doing and its effective on those young athletes participating, it’s our duty to educate them. Let’s communicate and involve parents as much as possible, in turn, you’ll create positive role models and allow them to enjoy the sport and observing their child have an increased level of enjoyment towards the sport.
Clark, W. (2008). Kids’ sports. Canadian Social Trends, Summer(85), 54-61. Retrieved from:http://dsp–psd.pwgsc.gc.ca/Collection-R/Statcan/11-008-XIE/11-008- XIE.html
Babkes, M,L., & Weiss, M. R. (1999). Parental influence on cognitive and affective responses in children’s competitive soccer participation. Pediatric Exercise Science, 11, 44-62.
Kremer–Sadlik, T., & Kim, J. L. (2007). Lessons from sports: children’s socialization to values through family interaction during sports activities. Discourse and Society, 18, 35-52. doi:10.1177/0957926507069456
Smith, R. E., & Smoll, F. L. (2007). Social-cognitive approach to coaching behaviors. In S. Jowett & D. Lavallee (Eds.), Social psychology in sport (pp. 75-90). Champaign,IL:Human Kinetics.
Rowley, S. (1986). The role of the parent in youth sports. In G.R. Gleeson (Ed.), The Growing Child in Competitive Sport, (pp. 92-99). London: Hoddon and Stoughton.
Website: (WOMEN’S SPORTS MEDICINE PROGRAM/SPORTS MEDICINE CENTER) http://www.mcworthopaedics.com/pdf/hoch-anne/parent-coachchild-the-athletic-triangle.pdf – (Last Accessed: 13/12/15)