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.
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:
- Introduction: Introduce yourself to the parents. What’s your background with the sport and with coaching in general?
- Discuss your coaching philosophy. What can the parents expect from you, as a coach?
- Explain what you expect from each player. What is acceptable behavior, and what is not?
- Tell the parents what you need from them.
- Describe the procedure if an athlete is unable to play or make it to practice.
- Detail all fees and necessary equipment that the parents/player are responsible for.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Discuss the procedure that occurs if an athlete is injured.
- Discuss how discipline will be handled.
- Hand out a schedule of all games, practices, etc.
- Discuss travel arrangements for away games.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.