28 January, 2016

Managing Parents Expectations

Managing Parents Expectations

Photo Credit: Jim Larrison

As another year begins, so too do the next generation of sporting stars. Just as kids start at schools, sporting organisations begin their programs, trying to attract a new generation of kids into their clubs..

My wife and I are looking for programs to get our 4 (and a half!) year old into and the conversation begins with, what will he enjoy? This factor is strongly followed by what program will best give him the next set of skills he needs for a lifelong participation in sport. As a four year old, swimming and cycling skills are a must for us. Along with finding a program that has movement skills, catching, kicking and hitting. But most of all we want something that will build his self-esteem and his sense of confidence.

As parents, building our children’s confidence and self-esteem in this competitive World is seen as a vital outcome if we are to be seen as ‘successful parents’. Combine this with a society where consumerism, online reviews and ratings are the norm, then expectations of the products we consume are increasing. This includes the sports programs that we as volunteers run.

So, the fact that you are volunteers, running a Saturday morning sports program for kids as your way of giving back to the community, doesn’t really cut it as an excuse anymore if you aren’t going to run it to meet the needs of your customers – the parents! So rather than bemoan the stressors of dealing with overbearing parents, lets seek to understand why it is what it is. We can then implement some strategies as a club to help our parents be successful alongside their little champions!

Research shows that coaches of youth teams least enjoy the following aspects of coaching:

  • Dealing with parental expectations that they feel are unreasonable of a volunteer
  • Abusive parents
  • Criticism from parents
  • The emphasis parents put on winning
  • Parents who think their kids are better than they actually are

So as a sports club or organisation, lets understand that and support our coaches to reduce their stress around these areas. One common way these days is the implementation of a  Parent Code of Behavior. I feel that this is a bit of an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff approach. It is something to fall back onto and enforce when a parent gets a bit unruly.

How about if we took a different approach to understand why the parents are acting the way they are and involve them in the process.

The parents of Z generation (or iGen, born in the 2000’s) kids feel they are reinventing parenting in a technologically advanced era. The World is increasingly competitive due to this technology and they want their kids to be better than average.

The majority of parents do the best they are capable of, but often they think that this isn’t enough for their kids. What if you as a club could tell your parents that by being a part of your club, they are doing a good job and that your coaches can help them support their child’s progress.

Below are three strategies that I believe could go a long way to helping build a positive relationship between the club, coaches and parents, and avoid the need for enforcing a Parents Code of Conduct.

1. Know that parents want the best for their kids 

Tell them what the benefits of being involved in your program are. Tell the how is it going to improve their child’s education.

Understand that above all else parents want their kids to have great values around acceptance of diversity, honesty, loyalty and being nice to others. Great clubs and coaches teach this holistic approach, so sell this alongside the sport skills they will learn.

2. Respect the parents’ time 

Parents put in a lot of time and effort to their kids extra curricular activities (see point 1). They also want the best bang for their buck and time. Embrace the parents for investing their time and money in choosing your club. 

Tell them that you respect their time (and show it) and give them ongoing measures of success for their kids (graduation certificates with increasing levels are as much for the kids benefit as for the parents). But what if you could provide this feedback more regularly as well? Where have their kids improved on week-to-week, where could they use some extra help? Give this regular feedback on the sidelines, before training, in a quick text message.

Parents will value this ongoing level of communication and reinforcement that their time and effort is worth their investment in their child’s progression.

3. Involve the Parents 

Particularly Dad’s who are involved in their child’s sport want to be their kids hero. They want to have the answers for them and the kids actually want to spent valuable time with their parents as well. So feed this need.

Give the parents a real purpose for being there and to help out with a certain skill or give them a task that will really help out the kids progress. Give the parents some homework with their kids. When providing feedback about little Johnny say, hey, I think he could really do with some help with his kicking, here are a couple of drills you could try at home.

This again reinforces points 1 and 2 and will help the parents understand where their child is in their progression of learning.

Managing Parents Expectations

This sounds like too much work you might be saying? Well it is much easier to build positive relationships within your club than to deal with negative attitudes. It also breeds success. And as passionate sports volunteers, I know that you want success for the kids in your club and that you coach, so you are willing to put in the extra effort!

Sporting clubs are about creating memories for the whole family – so they should be a place of encouragement, learning and positive reinforcement – for kids and parents alike!

© 2019 Paul Mead