Coaching Youth Football? Here’s How To Handle Difficult Parents

Coaching youth football is a rewarding job.  Watching a child have fun, work hard, and become a better athlete affirms that your coaching methods are successful.  Along the way, though, there are sure to be obstacles.

One of these obstacles is difficult parents.  Building and maintaining a positive parent-coach relationship is hard work, but it’s necessary to ensure that the parents will play a supportive role in the team dynamic.

Youth Football

Dealing with "over-enthusiastic" parents is one of the biggest youth football coaching challenges

In this article we’ll discuss 2 strategies you can use to eliminate conflict and help your athletes’ parents become a positive influence on the team.

The Pre-Season Meeting

At the beginning of the football season, it’s imperative that you hold a meeting with all of the athletes’ parents.  The meeting should cover the following topics:

  1. Introduction:  Introduce yourself to the parents.  What’s your background with the sport and with coaching in general?
  2. Discuss your coaching philosophy.  What can the parents expect from you, as a coach?
  3. Explain what you expect from each player.  What is acceptable behavior, and what is not?
  4. Tell the parents what you need from them.
  5. Describe the procedure if an athlete is unable to play or make it to practice.
  6. Detail all fees and necessary equipment that the parents/player are responsible for.
  7. Ask the parents the following questions: “Can you give up your child?”  When a child joins a team, they are entering the coach’s arena.  Parents must be able to relinquish their authority and take a back seat to the coach’s instruction and authority. “Can you accept your child’s disappointments?”  You can’t expect every athlete to be a superstar during every game.  Each athlete will have moments of failure, and it’s important that the parents understand this and accept this.
  8. Can you be a role model for good sportsmanship?  Kids will be kids, but adults should take the upper hand.  Rooting for all children—not just your own—as well as the other team is encouraged.
  9. Ask for a count of those who are interested in volunteering or participating in fundraisers.  Pass around a sheet for interested parties to write down their contact information and specific interests.
  10. Discuss the procedure that occurs if an athlete is injured.
  11. Discuss how discipline will be handled.
  12. Hand out a schedule of all games, practices, etc.
  13. Discuss travel arrangements for away games.
  14. Hand out a summary of football rules, positions, and common terminology.  Not all parents understand how the game is played.  This way, they can be more involved and understand what it is that their child is doing and striving for.
  15. Hand out a summary of everything that was covered during the meeting.  Both the parents and the player should sign the summary and return it before the first practice occurs.
  16. Provide the parents with your contact information, as well as times during which you can be reached.

Parents Code of Conduct

At your parent coach orientation meeting, have each parent sign a copy of your ‘Parent’s Code of Conduct”.

This should be a short, 1-page document which details your expectations for the way parents should behave during your team’s practices, games, travel, and any other team activities.

Below are some suggested items for you to include:

  • Children have the right to choose whether or not to participate in a sport.
  • Children should be encouraged to follow the rules; cheating should not be encouraged or condoned in any way.
  • This sport is for the child—it is not in any way for the parents.
  • The most important aspect of the sport is trying hard and trying to win through playing fairly.
  • Children should never be criticized, yelled at, or punished for losing or demonstrating poor skills.  The only time that a child should be disciplined with regards to the sport is if cheating or poor sportsmanship are involved.
  • Be a role model for your child.  Root on the other players and teams.
  • Do not argue with the referee or the coach during a game or practice.  If you have any conflict or issue with the coach, a private meeting will be scheduled.

Of course, if there are additional insights that you feel should be included in the code of conduct, do so.  This, more than anything, is to ensure that the parents realize what to expect during the season and understand what role they are to play.

If you have an interesting story (positive or negative) about dealing with parents that you’d like to share, leave it in the comments box below! And if you’re looking for practice ideas and tips for coaching your team, make sure you check out my book: Football Drills & Practice Plans.

Comments (8)

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  1. Larry Smith says:

    I don’t think I could have put it any better. Just this past season, I had coaches approach me about how i was able to maintain control of my parents on a losing team(0-8). Like you said Coach, at the beginning of the season, I laid it all on the line and clearly, which was important, what we would face as a team and what my goals were, because many of my kids were inexperienced. The only difference from what you suggested was that i didn’t allow any parent to contact me directly. I appointed a parent, my team manager, to screen my calls. She was my 2nd in command and I shared all information with her. This was crucial because my coaching staff was small(2 full time assisstance/ 2 part time). I am always amazed at some coaches refusal to be honest and lay out clear direction for there teams. My kids learned and grew as players and my parents learned that winning is relative.

  2. Bryan Law says:

    Obvious refresher. Good structure for keeping an organization grounded.

  3. Epic Sports says:

    This “Parents Code of Conduct” is a great idea! By letting the parents know expectations for their children, as well as expectations for parental involvement, you are giving them a chance to either align themselves with your rules, or opt-out. This way, if parents misbehave later in the season, you can call them out on the pre-set rules which they signed prior to the season!

  4. Steve says:

    Steve,

    I have recent run into a situation where my team Mom had approached me about giving the kids a inspirational talk about keep a positive attitudte as a team. So far we are 0-3 and some of the veterans are getting upset with how the season is going. We have a veyry young team, over half the team have never played before. She instead brought up a incident that happened on facebook that is cause a lot of heartache for me. I know have to calm down the team, parents and finally the team mom. Any good advise on this situation?

  5. Jason price says:

    Great points keep up the good work. I have used many :of your techniques fantastic

    • KEIKI K. says:

      Parent issues are by far the most disruptive thing that happens during the season, and staying ahead of the problem by offering a solution or consequence to any issue that may come upbefore the season starts so that everyone is on the same page is truly the best way to go. Great advice in this blot, right on point.

      Thank you,
      Keiki

  6. Chuck Salisbury says:

    I’ve had my share of problems with parents and it seems to begin with my failure to establish rules that must be followed. Coaches donate their time and deserve to be the decision maker. Right or wrong, win or loose, the coaches main job is to teach and coach football to kids with a variety of skills and to mold a team. To teach every player the importance of every position, etc. When I establish firm rules for parents to follow up front I have less problems. Up front I tell them that there is only one coach and I am the one. If they have any “positive” things to say about their sons I will listen only after a practice but NEVER on game day. Any negative comments from any parents just destroys what I’m trying to build so I do not allow ANY negative comments about me, the other coaches or the players. The parents know that I will not be pleasant when I hear negative comments. They do know that I mean what I say. I have a job to do and their kids benefit if I do a good job and I will always do a good job if I am left to do what I learned over many years of coaching. Nuff said

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