Katie’s dad never misses a session; he is always there rain or shine to stand on the side of the court and watch her play. It’s a simple process in his eyes – he takes Katie to play sport, there are coaches that are professionally trained to help his daughter get better and the important factors to him are covered – she is having fun with friends and improving.
Whilst that would be great if that was the world for all parents I know that is not quite the case. However, at times parents get a bad name, tarnished by a few that affects the masses. There is a minority that are the loudest, most poorly behaved and a little misguided with their support. There probably always will be too.
One key area that will help – clear information!
Here’s the thing; if parents don’t know what is going on in the practices or games they fill in the blanks themselves! This might mean adding 2 and 2 together and coming up with 4, but sometimes they will make 27!
Simple things we do as coaches can trigger this like picking the team in a different way, using tactics they haven’t seen before or asking the players to do something new. If parents aren’t aware of what is going on they will just guess!
For example, I remember setting out a team with an objective – “you organise yourselves into a formation and decide who is playing where”. I knew what was going to happen, that within the first 5 minutes it would be chaos and we would concede goals. But I was ok with that because the learning process the players went through (self-organisation, leadership, communication, conflict resolution) was going to be more beneficial for them in the long term.
However, I made the mistake of not telling the parents!
However, I made the mistake of not telling the parents! I could see from my side of the pitch the body language of the parents, the chattering amongst them and increased noise telling the players how to solve the problems. So, whilst I was comfortable to leave the players to sort this out I dashed round to speak to the parents and explain what was going on! Once they knew and could understand it, no problems whatsoever, and we watched the learning unfold in front of our eyes together as the players sorted things out.
I suggest the simple lesson is engaging the parents on key things they need help with to avoid myths spreading amongst them. Consider:
- Explaining why you have picked the team like this
- Allowing the player to explain their tactics they used in a match together with you
- Sharing the thought process behind why you try different things
- Helping them if they have genuine concerns about their child
Youth sport can be an amazing, fun and exciting environment regardless of whether you are in an individual or a team sport. The challenge is to ensure people understand the journey you are all taking together.