10 December, 2015

Dealing with Pushy Parents on the Sidelines

Dealing with Pushy Parents on the Sidelines

[Photo credit: USAG- Humphreys]

Having to deal with overzealous parents on the sidelines of sport comes with the territory of coaching youth sport. On the majority, parents are supportive of volunteers who take the time out to coach their children. Sometimes however, there are a few out there, as always in society that ruin the experience for all involved. As a youth sports coach, not only do you have a relationship that needs to be nurtured with the athlete, but also with the parents.

I had a coach recently come to me asking how to deal with a ‘problem parent’. The coach has a junior team that was working together well, but here was one girl who, fuelled by an overzealous parent, felt that she wasn’t getting enough attention. The coach was at her wits end as to how to manage not only the expectation of the junior player, but also the parent.

The advice I gave her I have shared with you below. It begins with understanding the situation, set expectations and constantly communicate.

Parental roles differ as the child grows and matures. From ages 4 – 12 the parents are heavily involved in the instruction or conduct of the activity but also the selection of the coach for their child. The focus of participation is around fun and family activity. From 13 – 18 years, the parents’ role changes as the athlete moves into one or two main sports and the focus of participation shifts to training and competition. Parental support becomes more dedicated to transportation and time management.

The pushy parent is often seen in the transition phase around 12-15 years of age, when the parent role is shifting and the motivation for participation in sport shifts for the child. This is important to understand as it enables a conversation to occur with parents around roles and responsibilities and expectations.

So how do you deal with that rogue parent who is making your life difficult and has you questioning your commitment to coaching? As with most conflicts involving two parties, the issues revolve around communication and being clear on expectations throughout the relationship.

Ideally we would address this at the start of the season by having a parent meeting to discuss expectations you have for players and parents, outlining your coaching philosophy and your own rules. Even better would be for this to be written down in a handbook for parents as well. This enables you to guide a discussion around any issues that pop up in season back to what was discussed pre season.

But what if you haven’t done this and you are halfway through the season and having issues. Well there is no harm in pressing the reset button and getting the parents together to discuss things as a collective. Try not to single any one parent out, but get the buy in from the whole group. You might even find that the greater mob will keep the rogue parents in line for you then too!

I would recommend these three tips for holding any parent meetings:

  • Be prepared. You need to be in control and know where you want the conversation to go. You are the Coach.
  • Have clear outcomes and general agreement at the end of the meeting to ensure you have buy in from the majority.
  • Do this outside of game day. Game day is your day between you and the players. Don’t let distractions get in the way otherwise it will show in your communication and interactions with the players.

No matter how hard you work, you are never going to please everyone. You are coaching youth athletes; you will have to deal with difficult parents. The way in which you deal with the situation may not win you friends, but at least aim for their respect. Stay calm, listen and then explain your point of view.

© 2019 Paul Mead