The three highest priorities in any youth sports program should be the student, the gym and staff, and the parent, in that order. The objective of the coach is to train the athlete and provide an environment that will produce positive results. This is a challenge in itself and takes much planning, development, and effort on part of the program directors and the entire coaching staff. What is seldom discussed and in some programs even avoided is how to coach the Parents. This can be a trying endeavor, and one that should have its own set of rules and objectives in every program. In this discussion, I will reflect some insight and thoughts on this important topic and its effect on the operations of youth sports programs.
All parents tend to see their children through rose-colored glasses, and will at times assume both the talent and passion to achieve are inherent. Unfortunately, in some cases, a parent’s passion to achieve can be stronger than the child’s, and will frequently attempt to direct and control how their child is trained. This is a common recurrence in all youth sport programs. When this happens, the parent can create a difficult and stressful distraction for the child, and the program. This is not only a challenge to deal with but often results in conflict and an end to the child’s participation. I believe this issue can be controlled but it takes the effort of the entire coaching staff and administration. The parent needs to be educated and coached just as their child is in the program. This is certainly a sensitive issue as no program wants to lose a student, however, if the issue cannot be resolved amicably it will almost assuredly create a toxic environment. In this instance, it may be best to part ways with the parent for the sake of everyone involved
Each program should have an established set of rules and regulations in written form that every participating parent should read carefully. By signing they acknowledge they understand and agree to adhere to the terms in the document. It is also advisable for someone in the administrative staff to verbally go through the specifics of the document when the parent enrolls the child. This should help to address any questions regarding the document. And finally, I would suggest even posting the rules and regulations where it is visible to all that enter as a constant reminder. Although the administration staff introduces these policies to the parent, it is usually the coach’s responsibility to enforce the rules and if necessary speak with the child and parents in the event there is a violation of gym policy.
We often hear a parent requesting special or private instruction for their child, and in some cases even suggesting the child be placed in a specific class. These suggestions should always be considered, but not decided by the parent. When this occurs, the coach should have a conversation with the parent explaining the training process and how mobility works in the program. Details should be given about how the student is doing and what factors are taking place in their development. Many times, this communication is effective and the parent will have a better understanding of the training process.
Unfortunately, there will always be the parent that is adamant and not open to the coach’s reasoning. If this happens, it should be addressed immediately and the coach must stand fast to gyms policies for the benefit of all the students and the program. The longer this type of parent is permitted to stay involved with the program, the greater the possibility the parent will bad mouth the program to other parents creating negative drama within the system. It’s like a virus, it can spread and create havoc. It needs to be eliminated!!
There are also those parents who hop from gym to gym assuming the “grass is greener” at the other program. It is apparent that there is not a program that fits the desires of the parent in these situations. And who suffers most? the child!! It always takes time for a child to adjust to a new environment with new coaches and teammates. Even when the staff creates a positive inclusive environment, the student may still have a difficult time building trust and confidence. On the other hand, there may not be a large selection of gyms in a particular area so a parent may try several before finding the right fit for their child. I always suggest this to parents who are asking about competitive programs for their child. There may be several in the area to choose from, so I suggest visiting several to find the right fit. The student needs to feel comfortable with the environment if they are to progress.
I have also found that one way to help prevent parent issues is to not allow the parents to get involved with the operations of the program. Having a Booster Club program is an excellent way to support a program, but should not be involved in any way with the programs instructional operations. A common problem is a parent developing a close friendship with one of the coaches or owner. Favoritism will almost assuredly create a corrosive competitive environment between parents and students, and should be avoided at all costs. Every program should have a staff policy not allowing any fraternization with parents. In addition, the parent viewing area should be monitored as closely as possible. We all know that some serious drama can occur in these areas. Some gyms have even eliminated the viewing area for this specific reason. I personally believe the gym should have an area where the parent can view their child, especially in non-competitive environments. They are paying for a service as well as wanting to make sure their child is receiving the attention they expect (refer to Class Structure).
The financial success of any program is dependent on student enrollment. Since it is the parent who is paying for the instruction, we depend on their support and want to retain them as long as possible. If the program is managed well with an experienced and positive staff, the students will thrive and the parents will be happy and satisfied. This will ensure the success of the program. Just remember, all it takes is one disturbed parent to ruin the reputation of a gym. If you see a potential problem with a parent, it needs to be addressed immediately. As uncomfortable as it is, it’s far better to confront the problem head-on and take immediate and drastic action if necessary, rather than allow the problem to escalate and have an adverse affect on the reputation of the program.
I hope you enjoyed this post and hope it helps some in knowing this is a common issue in almost all gym programs. As always, I would love to hear your comments. Also, if there are any subjects you would like me to cover, let me know and I will do my best to post my thoughts. Please Like and Share to all you believe will benefit from the information.
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