Photo: Ryan Wood
I'm seeing a flood of posts on youth football forums and have even received a few e-mails this season from frustrated youth football coaches complaining about "player agents"--also known as parents. Most of these unhappy coaches are dealing with parents that have non-issues, have an agenda, are misinformed, don't know much about the game of youth football or are just people that gain great pleasure from complaining.
The 80/20 rule is more like 95/5 in youth football: 95 percent of the problems are caused by 5 percent of the people.
Most of these issues will straighten themselves out over time. If you are well-organized, coaching well, are modeling great sportsmanship and your teams are competitive, you won't hear many complaints. However there are some people out there who just gain extreme pleasure from complaining. I got an e-mail from a coach who had a scrimmage last week.
Against two different teams his squad scored 14 touchdowns, while giving up just two. One of his detractors tried to tell him in the parking lot that his team had lost the scrimmage. I'm not sure in what game or on what planet you lose a scrimmage outscoring your opposition 98-14. When coach asked the complainer to look over the game film with him, of course the bozo quickly changed the subject. As we all know, film doesn't lie, facing up to reality obviously wouldn't have helped the whiner guys argument or agenda.
The common thread with all these coaches having all these problems is they didn't use the first 30 minutes of the very first practice to have a mandatory parents meeting to set everyone's expectations. Under no circumstances should you ever discuss changing your scheme, play calling, starters, playing time (beyond minimum playing time plays) or positions with anyone but your assistant coaches in private. Football is a team game and as head coach you are going to do what is best for the team, period.
I make it abundantly clear before we ever take the field for our first practice that we will never discuss those issues with parents. Obviously we also address sportsmanship, discipline, team rules and our mission in that meeting but first and foremost I set boundaries.
While this standard 10-minute speech may seem a bit blunt, having that tough talk early and proactively solves most of your problems before they ever surface. It's kind of like taking that band-aid off quickly in one short burst of pain or taking that band-aid off slowly over a three-month time period of intermittent but predictable pain. Give me the quick rip every time--it makes the season more enjoyable.
Quite frankly if an agenda-driven player agent came up to me after a scrimmage we had won 98-14 and tried to tell me we lost, I would have just smiled, turned my back, shrugged and walked off without saying a single word. When you get into a discussion with a fool you often come out muddy and looking just as foolish as the other person.
Always set expectations and don't be lured into agenda-driven discussions that violate the boundaries you set at your first practice. If you are one of those guys that decided to skip that step, Pandora is out of her box. Good luck getting her back in.