How to Handle Parents While Coaching

Handling Competitive Parents While Coaching

Sometimes competitive parents can get angry if they feel like you aren't treating their child like the best or giving him as much playing time as they would like.
Sometimes competitive parents can get angry if they feel like you aren't treating their child like the best or giving him as much playing time as they would like.
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It's the coach's worst nightmare: an intrusive, competitive parent. These types are obsessed with winning above all else. They will disagree with your coaching decisions and confront you about it. Often, they think that their child is obviously the best player on the team and should be treated as such.

As we mentioned on the first page, this type of parent might simply want to relive his or her glory days. However, it might be more complicated than just that -- he might want his child to attain a scholarship. The parent will put the pressure of the child's future on your shoulders.

Some experts attribute growing parental involvement in youth sports to a trend in the United States over the past two generations. Because of cultural changes, they say, parents feel increasingly responsible for their children's achievements [source: Coakley]. And in some cases, parents who push their children in sports may even physically abuse them by overworking them [source: Hyman]. As a coach you can help diffuse such problems by insisting on rest, variety in exercises and open communication.

Stories of parental violence on the playing field occur around the country all the time, so you should deal with a problem as soon as possible. If a parent is becoming angry during a game, have an assistant coach assemble the team for a meeting at a spot out of earshot, and then you can discuss the problem with the parent to calm them down.

To prevent parent involvement during games, some coaches ask parents not to talk to them, players, or officials during games. If a parent confronts you and is angry about your coaching style, ask him to meet with you the next day. Let him vent at this meeting and listen to him. Try not to argue with him if he is still aggravated -- simply say you will consider his suggestions and do your best to incorporate them. If you can learn from these complaints, you can help avoid future incidents.

Don't let your emotions get to you when dealing with an angry or competitive parent. Maintaining a civil attitude will help them do so as well. Whatever happens, remember the child's best interest is what's most important.

Learn even more about youth sports and coaching by visiting the links below.

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  • Bach, Greg, National Alliance for Youth Sports. "Coaching Soccer for Dummies." For Dummies, 2006.
  • Coakley, Jay. "The Good Father: Parental Expectations and Youth Sports." Leisure Studeis. Vol. 25, No. 2, 153-163, April 2006.
  • Faucher, David G. "The Baffled Parent's Guide to Coaching Youth Basketball." McGraw-Hill Professional, 2000.
  • Haefner, Jeff. "A Basketball Coaching Guide -- How to Deal with Parents the 'Right Way' and Avoid Unpleasant Problems." Breakthrough Basketball. 2009.
  • Hoch, David. "Dealing with the Irrational or Irate Parents." Coach and Athletic Director, March, 2000. BNet.
  • Hyman, Mark. "America's Obsession with Youth Sports and How It Harms Our Kids." Sports Illustrated (Reprint of Excerpt from Beacon Press). April 7, 2009.
  • Kanters, Michael A., et al. "Supported or Pressured? An Examination of Agreement Among Parent's and Children on Parent's Role in Youth Sports." Journal of Sport Behavior, 01627341, Mar. 2008, Vol. 31, Issue 1.
  • Ripken, Cal; Bill Ripken; and Scott Lowe. "Coaching Youth Baseball the Ripken Way." Human Kinetics, 2007.
  • Thompson, Jim. "The Double-Goal Coach: Positive Coaching Tools for Honoring the Game and Developing Winners in Sports and Life." HarperCollins, 2003.