It’s hard to be a coach in youth sports. You want to give your team your full attention—you have a game plan to execute, athletes shifting in and out of play—maybe even a few referees who you don’t see eye-to-eye with—and as the game progresses, the stakes get higher.
The last thing you want to deal with is shouting from the stands coming in your direction from an angry parent. So, outside of taking a deep breath and finding your inner zen, or shouting back at the parent in the stands, how do you manage those minor disagreements that can cause major game distractions?
Here are some tips for managing sports parents as a coach:
Hold a meeting and set expectations
One of the first things you should do before the start of the season is host a meeting with parents to get to know them better and set expectations for the year. This is a great opportunity to call out what is acceptable behavior, and let everyone know that this is, after all, just a game. You can also let parents know your coaching style, any rules specific to your age group or plans to manage an athlete’s playing time. This sets expectations early and hopefully avoids any negative outbursts during a game.
Don’t confront a sports parent during a game
It might seem obvious, but during a game is not the time to confront a sports parent whether or not they’ve caused a disruption. If the parent in question continues to yell, swear, and hurl insults at the ref or coach, then it could be time to call aside an official and have them quell the situation. The last thing (most) parents want is to upset their child who is playing or give their kid’s team a chance to lose or forfeit the game because of their behavior.
Keep families involved
It almost sounds counterintuitive, but communicating more with crazy sports parents can even help prevent outbursts during a game. Communication is key to making everyone feel comfortable and making sure your needs are being met and there’s transparency. Most people just want to be heard, first and foremost.
As a coach with a million other things on your mind, it can be easy to write off a parent’s request as “crazy,” but before immediately disregarding what they say, you should take the time to make sure their request is heard. This doesn’t mean what they say is right—could be far from it—but you can at least give them a platform to let them have their concerns heard.
At the end of the day, you’re the coach who has the final say on any game-time decisions. There comes a lot of responsibility with that, and unfortunately, sometimes that includes dealing with the parents of youth athletes. But by planning, keeping a positive outlook and remembering some of these things, it can be a bit easier to deal with sports parents should any disagreements arise.