Coach’s Guide: Working with Parents

Unlike coaches in the NBA or WNBA — where the parents of the players aren’t much of a concern — coaching kids does involve consideration of the Moms and Dads. Make it clear in your first meeting that you want to establish guidelines as to how parents interact with you.

But it doesn’t hurt during the course of the season to occasionally — and gently — remind parents that your top priority is the welfare of the kids. The major purpose of the season is for the kids to learn the game, play the game, and have fun doing both.

There will be times, however, when parents will approach you directly with a concern about their child. The issue might be anything from playing time, to the position their child is playing, to questioning your offensive or defensive game strategies. As the coach, you have to let these parents voice their concerns. However, you also can let parents know there are right — and wrong — times to approach you.

For example, tell the Moms and Dads that it really isn’t fair to the players if parents try to corral you before or during a game. After all, you’re trying to focus on all the players, not just one of them. As for chatting with parents after the game, that’s up to you. Some coaches prefer not to talk after games as parents might be too emotional. Others feel post-game conversations are fine.

Many youth coaches ask parents to call between certain hours on certain nights during the week if they have questions. These guidelines allow the coach freedom from calls at all times during the week. Also, by having the calling time a day or two after the game, there is a built-in “cooling off” period for the parents.

Give parents at least 5 to 10 minutes of uninterrupted time to present their concerns. In other words, don’t feel compelled to challenge their thoughts, or make your case. Most parents have already planned what they want to say, and they want the opportunity to voice their concern. If nothing else, they’ll feel better once they have had their say.

When they have finished, you should respond in a positive, non-confrontational manner. The absolute last thing you want is for the conversation to develop into a highly-charged debate. It’s up to you to make sure this doesn’t happen. Why? Because you have the position, authority, and perspective to make sure that things don’t get out of hand.

The best way to end these potentially volatile situations is by telling the parent, “Well, thank you, Mrs. Smith. I hear your concerns about Jody, and I’ll see what I can do to help improve the situation. I can’t make any guarantees, mind you, but I’ll definitely look into it.”

That’s all you have to say. And of course, check into what you can do to help Jody.

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