Even About Things Parents Shouldn’t Be Concerned About
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“I would like to meet with you to discuss my child.”
Oh, the dreaded text a coach gets the evening after a hard practice or game! This text or email can lead to a few sleepless nights, and can even cause us to dread our job. We avoid these meetings like the plague, and try to insulate ourselves from parent attacks by creating rules about things we will not discuss with them.
In a perfect world, parents would respect our rules to not discuss certain subjects. Amy Carney has written a great list of these subjects in her blog, Why Coaches Hate Over Involved Parents. According to Carney, here are the 6 things parents should not debate with their child’s coach:
1. Playing Time
4. All-Star Teams
6. Team Strategy
However, as we all know, the sporting world is far from perfect. So, what do we do when a parent breaks the rules and brings up one of the taboo subjects above?
Educate and Establish Boundaries
Parents should not bring up any of these concerns with their child’s coach, but the only way to prevent these awkward conversations is to establish some boundaries and promote healthy sports parenting early in the relationship. In the past, I have shared ways to work with parents from day one, and then continue a good working relationship throughout the season. Here are some: 5 Commitments Coach Can Make to Work with Parents
If we make the effort, step up, and engage with parents in a beneficial manner by educating them on what is really important, then we will find that they will want to have conversations about these taboo topics less and less.
Another beneficial tactic is to suggest — not mandate — that parents sit down with their children to advocate and encourage them to meet with the coach about these issues first.
So, what do you do if, even after all avenues have been explored, they still think their child deserves more playing time or a larger role, or they have ideas of their own about the strategy you should take?
Should we stand back and let these parents infect our team culture as they run their mouth to their child or other parents on the team?
We must remember that, oftentimes, their point of view is not in line with the thoughts and wishes of their children. Therefore, we cannot punish the child, but we can’t let overbearing parents continue to infect our team culture, either.
So, what’s the solution?
“Many a man would rather you heard his story than granted his request.” –Philip Stanhope, the Fourth Earl of Chesterfield
Sometimes, the best and easiest option is to simply stand back and listen, or better yet, solicit their suggestions outright by asking, “What do you think?”
We may question whether we are stupid or weak for allowing the very thing that we have tried so hard to avoid, but there are many benefits to keeping an open mind.
Here are three reasons why we should be willing to listen:
1. We Care for the Child
When we listen, we are able to understand more and more about the challenges that the child is facing in their home environment. While you may start by listening to their complaints about playing time, player roles, and strategy, these conversations can often lead to significantly more important things.
Parents have gone on to share with me that they are going through a separation, they have lost their jobs, or have even had their spouse incarcerated. I think this was pretty valuable information to learn when it came to coaching their child! The truth is that parents really have a positive or negative impact on the experience and development of their child. By listening to them, we show we care, and they are more likely to work with us than against us.
2. We Want a Healthy Culture
Remember that if the parents don’t share their thoughts with you, then they will be sharing it with somebody else. This could be their child, other parents on the team, or even school administrators. Whether we like it or not, parents are now part of our team culture, and we are better served if they understand the strategy, player roles, and playing time just as well as our players do.
3. We Want to Educate Them
Simply put, they don’t know what they don’t know! Anytime parents come to us, we have an opportunity to help educate them on what really matters! Yes, they sometimes complain about things we don’t want to discuss. However, we don’t have to actually discuss it at that time. We can simply thank them for sharing their concerns.
After they have finished getting it off their chests, ask them this: “What are you most concerned about for your child and their future?” Shift the discussion to a conversation about their child the person, not their child the athlete.
Why is this so important to our culture and the lives of the athletes?
Well, when I reflect on my own life and role as a coach versus my role as a father, I know one thing to be true: The father I am to my children is more significant than the coach I am to my players.
Yes, we can have a significant impact on the lives of young people as coaches, but we have far greater power and responsibility as parents.
Character formation starts in the home, NOT on the field or the court. So, if we have an opportunity to serve parents, then we have a responsibility to engage with them, regardless of how uncomfortable it may be!
Call to Action
“People crave two things above all else. They seek appreciation and they want someone to listen to them.” –Andrew Sobel
Appreciate parents for the positive things they do in their child’s life. Remember that we get more of what we focus on. Listen to their concerns. Then, help them to shift their focus onto more important topics for their child.