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Kids Drive Coaches to Coach; Parents Drive Coaches to Drink!

by John DeBenedictis

 When coaches get together at annual convention, they go there to take in coaching sessions to become a better coach but they also get together to compare notes and talk about their experiences. One could also call it a giant group therapeutic psychology session. And quite often, the topic reverts back to the parents of the players. Just when you think you have seen or heard it all, another coach tells you of an experience they had with a parent of a player.In the best case scenario, coaches would prefer that parents drop off their kids and leave them alone. Are there over involved or under involved parents? Are there good parents and bad parents? Sure there are and in a perfect world, we would not have to deal with parents nor need them to help in certain areas. Unfortunately this does not exist in youth sports.The first bit of advice I can offer on these questions regarding parents are that you have to be clear in your own mind as to why you are coaching. Although players can be challenging in their own ways, I find that if the parent is not part of the problem, then I can deal with all types of issues that players present provided I love helping kids out. In almost every single case, if left alone with my assistants (who are not parents) I can’t wait to get back on that field to coach the kids. I enjoy teaching them the game, I enjoy listening to them talk to each other about things on and off the field, and I enjoy giving them advice on issues away from the field. Assuming there was no parent interference, do you passionately enjoy coaching them? If you do not, then maybe coaching is not for you.

If you do not enjoy teaching players and dealing with their issues, then you’ll have a harder time dealing with the parents. At the end of the year, are you saying to yourself, “thank god it’s over” or are you saying, “too bad it’s over”? I find that it’s the kids who drive me to coach and I enjoy making a difference in their lives.

As for the parents, I would need a full book to tell you what you might expect. I find that the higher you go in competitiveness, the more difficult it can get although having said that, you’ll always find that overly competitive parent at the recreational level. Most parents just want their kid to play the game and have fun. The most vocal parents tend to be the ones who are overly competitive themselves and usually have kids who are your better players or think that their kids are the better players.

As a head coach the best possible situation for you is to find assistants and managers who are not parents. Things can get interesting if you have a child on your team. Ignore what you think parents are saying because you won’t sleep nights. Be approachable so that if parents have something to say, positive or negative, they can tell you directly. The role of parents on your team will also depend on the age group you are coaching and the level of play that they are in.

If you need parents to help, you need to make it clear to them before the season starts as to what their role is on the team. Are you promising to play a player whose parent helps more or sponsors the team financially? Clear these up right away at a parent meeting. When setting team rules, discuss them with everyone. Whatever those rules are, make sure everyone knows them so that there are no problems afterwards. Make sure all parents know them.

I know that each coach will have their own personal needs from parents but if possible, try to find friends, students who are looking for coaching or managing experience, or alumni players who may want to help you. Try to avoid parents. You’ll probably have fewer headaches, more fun and need fewer drinks!

Thanks for Reading

John DeBenedictis

Executive Director of The National Soccer Coaches Association of Canada has contributed to FUNdamental SOCCER for decades. Author of the best-selling book "The Last 9 Seconds: The Secrets to Scoring Goals on the Last Touch." and offers a course called "Secrets to Goal Scoring." Goalkeeper for York University, National Title winner in 1977. Semi-professional in the National Soccer League with Toronto Ukrainian and co-ran camps with former English International goalkeeper and Canadian National Team coach Tony Waiters.