Turning Around a Problem Parent

Last week’s post covered the 10 commitments that coaches should expect from parents. When these commitments are missing, coaches may find the team or a player suffering as a result. Here are some ideas for working through this problem.

  1. Assume parents are trying to help. In spite of what parents may be doing, most are behaving as they are because they believe their actions will benefit their child. Many times parents may be repeating inappropriate behaviors that were used with them when they played sports.
  2. Educate parents about best practices. If parents are working in their child’s best interests but are going about it wrong, then coaches can give parents alternative behaviors that will accomplish the desired results.
  3. Communicate frequently with parents as individuals and as a group. The more parents and coaches are at ease talking with each other about small issues, the more parents and coaches will be comfortable talking about more difficult issues.
  4. Rely on beginning of season communications. If the coach has held a meeting early in the season and given parents a clear set of goals and playing philosophies, coaches can go back to those to statements to restart the relationship.
  5. Seek help from league officials. Don’t hesitate to discuss a problem parent with the supervising league official. This provides an opportunity to gain insight into the parent or the problem as well as alerting others to a difficult situation.
  6. Seek advice from other coaches. With coach turnover, coaches are seeing problems with parents and parent issues that have been resolved many times by other coaches before them.
  7. Use parent meetings to form consensus and invoke peer pressure. Parent meetings are good times to set expectations for team parent behavior and discuss them. Parents are more likely to act in ways that they believe are supported by other parents.
  8. Rely on printed league statements and codes of conduct. In extreme situations, coaches may need to reference the league’s Code of Conduct to warn that current behavior may risk league actions. Coaches should use the league as the enforcer of these policies.

There is no standard approach to parent problems. A strategy focusing on communication, education and enforcement gives coaches the best chances of resolving parent issues.

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