Defusing Problem Parents in Youth Football
There are a number of strategies a youth football coach can use to avoid parental hassles in youth football. As mentioned in previous posts, the most powerful weapon in this battle is the parent contract and the mandatory parent meeting held just prior to the first practice. During that meeting as discussed in the book starting on page 58, I outline the very narrow parameters where contact with the coach and parent is warranted and how that communication takes place. I make sure to make fun of all the parent coach communication scenarios that are NOT allowed, to make sure all parents are on board as to when it is ok to talk to the coach and how exactly that communication takes place.
Never arrive at football practice and games too early and just loligag around, that is an invitation for parents to get their little points in. Be a whirlwind of activity, pass out your daily football practice plans with your coaches, get your drills lined up with cones, instruct proper technique for kids doing pre-practice drills or discuss player development with one of your assistant coaches. If the parents see you wasting time they feel it is a license to waste your time also. If they see you are busy and there won�t be an opening to talk with you, they won�t usually bother you. After practice don�t wait around, assign an assistant coach to be the last one at football practice that day to make sure all the kids get rides home. I also bring only the footballs to practice, the dummies and cones etc are brought to practice by parents, so I don�t get stuck after practice hanging around picking up gear. During that first meeting I let the parents know I�ve got too much to do and I won�t be bringing the dummies or cones to practice. I let them know how important the dummies and shields are, but tell them if no one volunteers to bring them to practice, we just won�t use any. I leave them on the field and let them figure it out as a group.
Assign a Team Mom to handle communication, paperwork distribution and collection so you do not have to stick around so long before or after practice. Any announcement is given orally as well as papers are sent home with the kids. This lessens the requirement for face to face communication and the incessant �love to hear myself talk� questions from some soccer moms. Any questions about those issues should be directed to the team mom and her alone.
While this may seem a bit harsh, I�ve found it works much better than when I�ve tried to be all things to all people and bent over backwards to face-to-face communicate everything. Another important factor is coaching burnout. The reason most youth football coaches quit coaching is parental interference and hassles, that�s why the tenure of most youth football coaches is just 1-2 years. The kids need good coaching, and if you are going to coach beyond 2-3 years, you need to distance yourself from the parents. Do I have good personal relationships with parents? Sure, I get e-mails and letters of thanks and encouragement from many, but they are the ones that I want to talk to, not the ones that want to talk to me.
If cornered by a parent, I refer to the parent contract they signed and/or the parent meeting and keep moving to my next task. If it is something allowed in the contract I ask them to e-mail me the details or if they do not own a computer to call me the NEXT DAY, from 8:45 to 8:55 pm. A very narrow window on your terms sets the table for a very short conversation. I�ve got a family, a demanding job, a business and a bunch of football players to manage. They just have the one player, they have to make the accommodation if they want to talk to me. As you may have guessed, I rarely have parental problems or parents that insist on wasting my time. They can be coach killers that drain the joy one gets from coaching youth football. Just like any other football coaching skill, it’s all about setting expectations, putting yourself in a position to succeed and holding people (including yourself) accountable.
The more we have had the attitude “we are glad you are here, but we will do well with whatever grouping of kids we end up with”, the better the experience has been for everyone. No player, no matter how good he is, is worth team disunity or hassles from parents.
Copyright 2007 Cisar Management and //winningyouthfootball.com republishing this article without including this paragraph is copyright infringement.