By Tim Bradbury, Director of Coaching Instruction, Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association
I have written on many occasions on the need for all youth coaches to try and do their best to both engage with and educate the parents of the players they work with with. Indeed I am fully convinced that any team and group ,of players only fulfill their potential when all the parents are in synch with the coaches mission.
Even after having coached for thirty years on Long Island and seen all sorts of insane behavior I have been surprised on recent coaching courses when I implore those attending to reach out to the parent group and embrace them as a powerful resource by the attitude of disbelief coaches have at the suggestion.
Intense emotions are displayed as coaches around the room share stories of the the behavior of a crazed parent. It seems that disruptive and harmful parent behavior is not just a part of the youth game as already this year I have seen the aftermath of bad parent behavior in high school soccer and college soccer. Rather than see this as a reason why you can never entertain the idea of engaging the parent group I urge all coaches to make it a priority.
Hold a minimum of three parent meetings a season and where possible also hold at least 1 individual player parent meeting. Whenever you have the time after a game hold end of game chats explaining to the parents how the team did in terms of their overall development and why the game went the way it did. In all meetings above arm yourself with the core values below
Honesty, Respect, Empathy
Empathy is essential because what is obvious and easy to understand is that you and they have connected but conflicting missions.
You have the development and care of the team as your number one priority. They have the care and protection of their child as their only concern.
Not many parents are able or willing to put the needs of the team before what they consider to be best for their son or daughter. Many have a slightly heightened perception of their child’s skill set and athletic potential. The best way to handle this disconnect is by confronting it. No parent will tell you in an open meeting they expect you to sacrifice the team so “Tim can have his moment in the sun." The more you address the issues, the better the relationship will become. Share your rules on playing time. Share your expectations on how you want their child and them to handle disappointment and buckle down to work again. The more honest and open you can be the better. Overtime you will convert many and also become acutely aware of those you need to lose.