Athletes, Coaching, Mentor, Parent, Program Development

Someone Needs to be in Charge: Coaching Sports: Who is in Charge?

coach with kids

All athletes who participate in sports, whether it be for recreational or competitive purposes need to have the guidance and support of a coach. Many sports have multiple coaches that participate and specialize in particular elements of the sport. For example, in the sport of Golf, the athlete may have a swing coach, a putting coach, and exercise coach. Even recreational youth sports programs may have multiple coaches. Basketball, football, soccer, gymnastics, etc. will have several coaches on the field or in the gym. There should always be a head coach that is responsible for the entire program and assistant coaches that specialize in particular fields. This process can get cloudy, however. Throw in the parents and it becomes a nightmare. In this discussion, I will share my thoughts on the role of the coach and how it relates to the athlete.

In sports that have multiple coaches, there needs to be a definitive hierarchy of responsiblity. If this is not defined, the training atmosphere is sure to be chaotic with ongoing conflict. We have heard of the term “to many chef’s in the kitchen ” and it is no different in the sports industry. When this occurs, who suffers? the athletes!!

Not only is it an objective of the coaches to train the athletes so they can improve their skill level, they should create a positive and exciting environment for the students to train. This type of environment will certainly help to motivate the students to put forth a strong effort for success (The Motivation Factor). If there is conflict between the coaching staff, it will affect the atmosphere and focus of the athletes which may result in a lack of progress.

Coaches talking

The coach has a huge impact over the development of their students both physically and emotionally. Young athletes look up to their coach and seek direction from them. In many cases, the coach has a stronger impact over the student than their parents, as many athletes spend more time training in their sport than they spend at home. The coach has such a strong influence over the student that he or she will be the person who is responsible for the success or failure of the student. This is a huge responsibility and one that every coach should recognize.

There are many methods and styles of coaching and it can be a challenge for the coach to find what works best for each individual athlete. Every athlete is different and what may work great to motivate one student may not work well with another student. The challenge becomes greater when the coach is working with a group of students at one time. It would not be possible to communicate to each individual in detail during a training session. The instruction is directed to the entire group and all students must react and perform as directed. In this situation, all students need to accept the style of coaching presented to them.

Mean coach

So what style of communication should the coach use when working with students? There are many styles and each will have a different effect on each individual student. Some communicate in a stern and demanding manner, some use threats and negative consequences, while there are others who communicate with positive and constructive criticism (Coaching: The Communication Factor). I believe this last example should be the norm.

When an athlete is in an environment where there are several coaches training at once, there can often be confusion and conflict. The problem arises when different coaches are telling students different things on the same issue. For example, one coach may tell a student to run 10 laps while another tells that student to run 15 laps. This puts the student in a difficult situation. Which coach has priority in this case? It is this type of scenario that can cause a breakdown in productivity and positive environments.

Each coach participating in a program needs to have a specific set of objectives and be responsible for specific parts of training. Once defined, the coaches should not interfere in an area controlled by another coach. In the sport of gymnastics for example, there may be a coach responsible for training students on the Bars and Vault and a different coach responsible for the Floor and Balance Beam. Each will have their own set of objectives and training format for their students. This same concept applies to all sports that have multiple positions or events.

Parents on sidelines

A common problem in many sports, especially youth sports, are the parents. Of course, not only is the parent paying for their child to participate in the program, but they want their child to succeed. The problem arises when the parent takes it upon themselves to assist in the coaching of their child. There is nothing more frustrating for the coach then to have a parent try to coach their child from the sidelines (Coaching the Parents). This creates a huge disruption in the objectives the coaches are trying to achieve. It also distracts the student from focusing on what their coach is instructing. In this scenario, the student may be more concerned with what their parent is saying or thinking and ignoring what the coaches are saying.

Father yelling at coach

It is also common that a parent may approach the coach and attempt to dictate how their child should be coached. Are you kidding me?? Even if the parent has had experience in the sport, they have no business telling the coaches how to do their job. If the parent is not satisfied with how their child is being developed, it may be a good idea to terminate the participation and enroll in another program.

There are parents who may think the “grass is greener” at some other location or program and constantly moving their child. In gymnastics, we call this “gym hopping”. This only hurts the athlete and will usually slow down progress. It takes time for an athlete to thrive in an environment and gain confidence in their coaches. When students hop from program to program, this confidence is rarely accomplished.

group of coaches

It is the coaches job to train and guide the athletes along their path to succeed. The “head coach” needs to make sure all aspects of the training environment are organized. They need to perform as a team and insure the athletes are getting the best training possible. When there is a strong positive relationship among the coaching staff, the athletes will be in an environment that should produce positive results.

coaches teamwork

I would love to hear your comments on this subject. 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.

Communication, Parent, Program Development

Coaching the Parents


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.

animated parents with child

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

Coaching training words

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.

Angry women

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.

parents viewing

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).

mom and daughter animatedThe 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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