Coaches & Parents Working Together for Youth Sports

This week, I attended a mandatory coach certification meeting (lecture) for the local school district. The presenter was the athletic director and softball coach at a local high school with years of experience.

The nugget of wisdom from those years of experience that he shared with the coaches – really the only time he deviated from reading the prepared script – was in regards to parent meetings.

He suggested (implored) that coaches have a parent meeting and tell the parents that they refuse to discuss playing time with the parents. He insisted that if the coach is firm in the meeting, he will not have issues with parents. He even said that when a parent comes to talk to him, his first question, in a stern voice, is: “You’re not here to discuss playing time, are you?” He warned coaches not to waffle on this issue.

I could not disagree more. Personally, when coaching high school athletes, I prefer that parents encourage their child to approach me directly so we can discuss any issues that the player may have, as parents rarely attend practices (all my practices are open).

I also use the 24-Hour Rule: I will not discuss playing time issues with parents or players until the next day, as I do not want the emotions of the game to impact the discussion. Once we have a chance to take a deep breath and remove ourselves from the game, I am more than willing to discuss playing time with parents.

Why? Because we want the same thing.

When I listen to coaches like this speak, they make parents (and often the players too) into adversaries. Parents have the same goals for their child as I have for all the players. The difference is that I have to balance the goals and desires of 12 players, while the parents are laser-focused on one player. Sometimes this causes parents to lose some perspective, but we still want the same thing.

What do parents want? Here is what I wrote earlier this fall:

They want their child to have a great experience, and they feel a great experience is one where the child wants to go to practice and games and where the coach emphasizes sportsmanship, keeps it fun, teaches the skills and communicates openly and honestly with the players.

Are a coach’s goals any different? I hope that all players have a good experience, and I hope that all players want to go to practice. The worst thing that I can hear from a player is for a player to say, “I have to go to practice.” I don’t want players to feel that they have to do anything – I want them to play because they enjoy practices and games, like the competition, and want to learn something new.

There is nothing to gain from avoiding conflict by refusing to speak to parents and players. Parents simply want to ensure a positive experience for their child, and coaches should want the same. Nobody wants a player to have a bad experience. By meeting with parents and working together, as opposed to creating adversaries, coaches and parents can enhance the players’ experience.

By Brian McCormick
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League

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