Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch – Part 6 – 5 Tips to Turn the Dreaded Sports Parent into a Beloved One

The dreaded sports parent. We’ve all experienced them. We’ve all seen viral videos of parents heads almost exploding while watching 6 year olds play t-ball. I was coaching my daughter’s kindergarten soccer team just a few months ago when the police had to be called to separate two fighting moms. We would all like to eliminate these types of culture-killing moments, here are 5 tips on how to turn the dreaded sports parent into a beloved one:
  1. Set the standards. One of my favorite coaching axioms is ‘Anything you see on the field – you either taught it or you allowed it.’ Replace the words ‘on the field’ with the words ‘in the stands.’

    ‘Anything you see in the stands – you either taught it or you allowed it.’  

    When you establish core covenants and set the standards for behavior for your coaches and players, do the same for your parents. This team is not just about the kids, it’s about the coaches, the parents, the community – we’re all in this together.

  2. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Some coaches, especially as you get into middle school and high school levels, like to create a separation from parents and let the kids pass along all the info to the parents. I am a big fan of making the kids take responsibility for communicating to the coaches if they are going to miss practice or have issues with playing time, etc. But to expect the kids to correctly relay the coaches’ messages back to the parents is very unrealistic. Many things will get lost in translation (picture the telephone game.) So bring the parents into the loop. A lack of understanding is one of the main parental frustrations with a coach.
  3. When communicating, establish the parameters. One thing I find a must is the 24 hour rule. This is simply a matter of courtesy, that if a parent has something to discuss, please do not do so for 24 hours before or after a game. This allows cooler heads to prevail. Another parameter to establish up front is if there are any topics that are off-limits. Specifically on that list could be playing time, any other player, or game strategy.
  4. Help the parents become a team – Skip a practice and have a pool party – parents wear nametags so they can all get to know each other.
  5. Stick to your guns – Do not let the fear of a repercussion from a parent affect your coaching decisions. Coach Ray Lokar shared a story with me: He went against his gut – in a game-winning situation – he didn’t let his son (who was his best player) take the shot – he was too worried about the perception from the parents.  When you’re the coach – you need to separate out emotions and do what’s best.

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