Coaching the Parents
After over 30 years coaching youth soccer I realize how important it is to “Coach the Parents” as well as their players. Many youth coaches refuse to accept the fact that without parental support and understanding they are doomed to failure. There are some basic parental instincts that drive parents to act the way they do.
Parents want their child to be happy.
Parents want their child to be successful.
Parents want to protect their children from the pain of failure, and
They want them to be safe.
Take away any of the above parental requirements and you will have some very irate parents. It is the successful youth coaches’ jobs to teach the game, and also meet the players and parents expectations. Unfortunately at times, it is impossible for the coach to meet all those requirements. The simple fact is that not everyone has the gifts and drive of Mia Hamm or David Beckham.
To meet the expectations of the players, the coach must know what motivates each player. The coach must ask some important questions that will help the coach meet their expectations such as:
Why are you here? The answer to this question can sometimes be a little deceiving. Their answer will be because I want to play soccer at the highest level, when the real answer is their parents expect them to play at the highest level. The coach must be able to sort this out, because there is sometimes a lot of difference between what the player really wants and their parents want. If you find out that it’s the parents who are pushing the player and s/he is only marginal at the level they expect to play, s/he will never meet the parents’ expectations and it will be the coach who will get the blame. I recommend if you have a chose, don’t put that player on the team, it is easier to deal with the upset player and parent once then all season long.
Where do you want to go with your game? This is an important question because the answer may set some unrealistic goals. If the player thinks they want to play at a soccer strong division 1 college and s/he is not at that level, then the player and parents will be unhappy when it doesn’t happen. The coach must be able to council the player and parents on what are realistic college goals, as it relates to soccer.
Where do you think you fit on this team? Many players feel they should start every game and most parents’ reinforce those expectations. As a coach you must explain to a player, if not already a starter, what their role is on the team. You must convey to the player what they must do to become a starter, and set a plan to meet their goal. Early in the season it is important to evaluate, and put in writing, a player’s strengths and weaknesses. This lets them know what you expect of them and where they must improve.
Do you understand the team standards of conduct? One of the most important things you can do, as a coach is to set standards of conduct for the team in writing. Make sure all the players understand them clearly. It helps to get parents involved up front, and have them buy into the standards you have set for the team by having them signing the code of conduct with the players. This will make it somewhat easier to get support from the parents when you must discipline a player. No coach treats all players the same. It’s just human nature to like some people more than others. However, when it comes to disciplinary standards, all players must be treated alike. If you want to destroy a team’s morale and get the parents upset, don’t discipline a star player for an infraction of team rules.
Parents should be used to the fullest extent in jobs such as team mothers, refreshment providers, filming games, setting up shelters over the bench area, transportation coordinator, outside activities coordinator, making hotel reservations, web master for the teams web site and emergency injury response team. Giving parents responsibilities makes them a full part of the team and at least partly responsible for its success.
The coach must keep the parents informed at all times. I have seen a number of coaches give updated game and practices schedules to the parents each week. This also contains directions to the next games and other team information. Other coaches have parent meetings every few weeks to answer questions and get a consensus of what tournaments, competitions or other activities the parents will support.
Being up front with parents about their player is one of the most important and difficult things that a coach must do.
Communicate with the parents.
Be ready with specific answers to parent’s questions.
Never compare their player with another player on the team.
Give ways that the player can improve.
Give ways that the parents can help their players improve.
When you get a player on your team the parents come along with them, there is nothing you can do about that. Some parents are real problems and you will need to know that and be prepared to deal with them early. Fortunately the majorities of parents are a bonus, and can be used to free you from a lot of administrative duties that get in the way of your coaching.