Dealing with parents, especially at the middle school level, is something that every coach must face. Often times dealing with the parents is more challenging than coaching your players. There are so many personalities clashing together and all of them want the same thing, their child to play.
It can become a very frustrating and stressful part of the job. Some coaches tell the parents not to interfere and try to minimize the amount of time they have contact with the parents. Nowadays that philosophy is more detrimental than helpful.
Instead, be proactive with your parents and educate them on how you do things, what your expectations are of the players and the parents, and appropriate methods of communicating with you.
First things first…
One of the first things a coach should do is have a parent meeting at the start of the year. It can be very helpful, especially to new coaches. It will help minimize potential problems in the future by answering questions on the front-end instead of having to answer the same question later.
It may seem like a lot of extra time, but it will lessen the discussions you have to have with individual parents. The topics of the meetings should be planned out and followed. When planning the meeting, be sure to set aside ample time for a question and answer session for the parents.
Making the meeting productive
The key to having a quality Q&A session is to be honest with the parents and promote an environment of fairness. It’s important that parents understand that the parent meetings are not a time to discuss playing time, game plans, or other players. It also needs to be understood that questions should be asked in a proper manner in regard to language and conduct.
Finally, every parent should exhibit emotional control and be willing to listen to the questions of other parents and the responses from coaches. The first meeting of the year should lay out your team rules, your coaching philosophy, and inform the parents of their expectations and responsibilities in regard to themselves and their child. The following are the responsibilities that you need to make each parent aware of and explain in your first parent meeting.
Parents’ Responsibilities and Expectations
1. Be a fan of everyone (other players, cheerleaders, etc.)
2. Respect the officials and everyone on the other team
3. Talk to your child if they have questions
4. Don’t create conflicts with your child and their coaches and teammates by your conversations
5. Address your complaints to coaches at an appropriate time
6. Understand the goal is to make each player better and not to win every game
7. Be supportive of your child
Everyone’s reputation is on the line
It’s vital that the parents realize that they are not only representing themselves and their child, but also the community and the school. Therefore, you need to be proactive when addressing parent and fan behavior during games. It is a lot easier to create a bad reputation among other schools and officials than it is to build a good reputation.
Fans and players are often a reflection of their coach and his behavior. If you complain to referees and blame them for loses then don’t be surprised when your players start blaming other people and your fans begin to disrespect the officials and eventually you.
Summing it all up
If you choose to conduct parent meetings during the year, be prepared for a lot of parent questions, especially if you are struggling in your season at the time. Remind the parents that you will not answer questions about playing time, game strategy, or other players and every question needs to be asked in an appropriate manner.
You will inevitably have a parent that questions everything you do, challenge you, and try to create problems with you and other parents. It’s best to deal with them in a one-on-one discussion rather than at a parent meeting. It will allow them to voice their opinion to you and will allow you to answer their specific questions.
Parents are going to disagree with you and talk about you to other people, but if you offer an atmosphere where they can voice those concerns then at least you know what they are saying and can defend yourself. Being questioned in an honest manner can be a growing process for coaches. Coaches that try to avoid potential disagreements from parents are missing out on an opportunity to learn and become a better coach.
Coaching youth basketball can be one of the most rewarding experiences life has to offer. Don’t let difficult parents keep you away from the enjoyment of helping kids accomplish their goals. Instead confront the issue head-on and demand that parents respect your boundaries, for the betterment of all the kids on your team.