Youth coaches sometimes joke that the ideal youth team is a team of orphans. Though this approach is one solution to problem parents, there are other more practical solutions. One of the best is regular communication with parents.
Everything a coach does with the team is in parental view. In the absence of coaching guidance, parents form and communicate their own opinions of the status of the team and the steps necessary for improvement. Some parents may be objective and knowledgeable about the sport, but if they don't speak up, then the overall team opinion may be shaped by others. For coaches, these parent-to-parent and parent-to-player communications can become distracting to their efforts to make team improvements.
Coaches should consider short and regular meetings with all parents to help shape these opinions and give parents better insight into what to watch for in games and practices. In a recent Sports Esteem survey of coaches and parents, over 60% thought that coaches should at least meet occasionally with parents after a game. In these meetings, coaches might cover:
- Recent team performance giving parents insight into the progress the team is or is not making in various areas.
- Approaches taken in practices that are attempting to shape game performance.
- Reemphasis of team goals and objectives.
- Realistic guidance concerning upcoming game and practice performance.
- Positive comments concerning every player. Mentioning only a few players may raise more parent concerns.
- Reminding parents to praise their children's efforts and encourage their kids to have fun and develop a love for the game.
The overall test of a youth coach is whether his players have fun, learn new skills and want to play again next season. Yet, in the emotions of a game or issue, these goals can get lost or seem secondary. Coaches need to have the courage and conviction to keep their parents working toward these goals and this requires regular and consistent communication. The temptation to avoid parental contact only amplifies problems over time and lets small problems become large problems later in the season.
Parents help judge the success of coaches, teams and seasons. In the absence of information, their judgments will vary greatly based on their own experiences and knowledge. With information, parents gain better appreciation for the challenges coaches face and continue to learn how they can best support their child's efforts.