Empowering Coaches Step-By-Step

Dealing With Difficult Player Agents (Parents) in Youth Football

Parent Problems in Youth Football

 I’m seeing a flood of posts on youth football forums and even getting a few e-mails from youth football coaches complaining about “player agents” also known as parents. Most of these unhappy coaches are dealing with parents that have non-issues, have an agenda, are misinformed, don’t know much about the game of youth football or are just people that gain great pleasure from complaining.  The 80/20 rule is more like 95/5 in youth football, 95 percent of the problems are caused by 5 percent of the people.

 Most of these issues will straighten themselves out over time. If you are well organized, coaching well, are modeling great sportsmanship and your teams are competitive, you won’t hear many complaints. However there are some people out there who just gain extreme pleasure from complaining. I got an e-mail from a coach who had a scrimmage last week. Against 2 different teams his squad scored 14 touchdowns, while giving up just 2, using my system. One of his detractors tried to tell him in the parking lot that his team had lost the scrimmage. I’m not sure in what game or on what planet you lose a scrimmage outscoring your opposition 98-14. When coach asked the complainer to look over the game film with him of course the bozo quickly changed the subject.  As we all know, film doesn’t lie, facing up to reality obviously wouldn’t have helped the whiner guys argument or agenda.

 The common thread with all these coaches having all these problems is they didn’t use the first 30 minutes of the very first practice to have a mandatory parents meeting to set everyones expectations. Under no circumstances should you ever discuss changing your scheme, play calling, starters, playing time (beyond minimum playing time plays) or positions with anyone but your assistant coaches in private. Football is a team game and as head coach you are going to do what is best for the team, period.

 I make it abundantly clear before we ever take the field we will never discuss those issues. Obviously we also address sportsmanship, discipline, team rules and our mission in that meeting but first and foremost I set boundaries. Included in my book is the exact speech I have given at that first practice in the last 11 seasons. While it may seem a bit blunt, having that tough talk early proactively solves most of your problems before they ever surface. It’s kind of like taking that bandaid off quickly in one short burst of pain or taking that bandaid off slowly over a 3 month time period of intermittent but predictable pain. Give me the quick rip every time, it makes the season oh so more enjoyable.

Quite frankly if an agenda driven player agent came up to me after a scrimmage we had won by 98-14 and tried to tell me we lost, I would have just smiled, turned my back, shrugged and walked off without saying a single word. When you get into a discussion with a fool you often come out muddy and looking just as foolish as the other person.

Always set expectations and don’t be lured into agenda driven discussions that violate the boundaries you set at your first practice. If you are one of those guys that decided to skip that step, Pandora is out of her box, good luck getting her back in.

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8 Comments

  1. Scott

    The issue that those pesky “player agents” as you call them have, is that youth football is supposed to be an INSTRUCTIONAL LEAGUE. These are kids just being introduced to a new sport. The only way a kid that is new to the sport is going to learn is to play in game situations. Playing a kid (that has worked his tail off in practice all week) for 4-6 plays in a game isn’t going to do this. Were this high school, I would expect that the best players would get all the playing time. However, in an instructional league, there has to be a more equitable division of playing time…which is not to say EQUAL playing time. Starters should get more playing time…but they shouldn’t still be in while up 3 touchdowns in the second half.

    And by the way, the other reason parents get upset is that we all are paying a good chunk of money to essentially finance the highlight reels of the coaches sons, who are inevitably the kids with all the playing time.

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  2. Jack Livingston

    In reading your comments on parents and the difficulties different coaches following your system have encountered I am gaining a lot of help in understanding how I can improve and combat similar situations.
    One question I have is when is it a good time to answer questions one or more parents may have? After the initial parent meeting is it ever recommended to hold additional meetings during the season?
    My club is seven to nine year olds. Four of the coaches children never leave the field (ie: three offensive backs, one defensive linebacker). This, and the fact that children have had very little opportunity to try out different positions is causing tension. I am the assistant being approached by these parents and am having difficulty getting them an answer that I can repeat.
    Any help? I have your cd package, book, and game films…

    Reply
  3. davecisar

    Per the post, we have a parent meeting before the season starts to let the parents know what we will and won’t talk to them about.

    All of our evaluation games/drills make it obvious to even the lay person who has ability and who doesn’t. The competition format of each of our drills always allows the cream to flow to the top and exposes those that can’t yet perform well. It’s all in the book.

    Only the most zealous and blind coach would be able to ingore the results of the evals we use to put their son into an unsuitable position. You solve this by having very detailed position requirements and them map your evals into those requirements.

    If the head coach is being unfair you need to have the parent address their questions to him. I always have my assistants defer any question to me, the head coach.

    In 17 seasons of coaching youth football, I have only coached my own child 4 times and he always was in the bottom 25% playing time wise. If your head coach is not a fair person and you can’t convince him to do legit eval drills, then I would search for a new team to coach next season.

    Unfortunately there are a few of those kinds of guys out there like that. Of the 15 coaches I have on my staff this season, I only see 2-3 that may have an inflated view of their sons ability. Many more of them are harder on their kids than the others. Since I make all playing time determinations, it is never an issue and I simply don’t get those kinds of complaints.

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  4. Ross P

    What is your sugggestion when as a parent you do run into the rare coach that simply will not accept the fact his son is NOT one of the top players on the team and insists on playing him extensively at all skill positions and running 70% of the plays either trough him or to him? Should that be left alone and just hope for better next season or is a private discussion helpful?

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  5. Tom B

    I do think early communication is the key. I wanted to know your thoughts on playing time. I run an Athletic Association and every year most of the complaints I get are about playing time. My biggest area of concern that I am tring to change is the playing time for the 6th and 7th graders which is none. You are not guaranteed any playing time in these grades. With this there were 4 or 5 games last year where 10 or more kids did not get in and the team was 2-7 for the year. I would like at least a series guaranteed for all players, but the football coordinators state this will only make the program worse and that the top kids get the playing time. What are your thoughts?

    Reply
    1. davecisar

      Coach,
      I’m with you, weak coaches always make excuses why they can’t compete. A 2-7 coach is not someone I am going to listen very closely to. Set a minimum number of plays each player will be required to play and hold them accountable to it. It forces coaches to coach up everyone. I don’t think it is fair to play everyone the same amount, but if a kid is coming to practice every day, he need to play.

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  6. Mike

    Hi,

    I am a players agent (parent). My son just had his last 8th grade game and it is his first year in football. He has some ADHD issues and some other things which made it not a good idea to join football. This year he did and he loves it. He is as MPP kid and we are fine with that. However last year this league had a 8 play minimum as but for this year I can’t find anything about it. He attends every practice and when he had only 8 plays after 5 games I started to complain. I was told that he is disruptive during practice and hard to deal with. The director got involved and agreements were made. My son did everything asked of him. I attended several practices but did not see any disruptions (which could be because I was there). Anyway I was a little ticked that they didn’t communicate any issues with me but rather just bench my son. In 5 games he had 3, 1, 2, 0 and 2 playes. The 0 play game was when my wife took off from work to watch him play. After I complained I was told that the head coach would take him under his wing. He couldn’t even do a 3 point stance by now. We worked on this at home and he could do it but to last nights game he was told not to. They also did not work on his 3 point stance at practice. Until this point he got no almost no plays and had to sit out at least 50% of snaps during practice. At one practice he was even put on the sideline for an hour and do nothing by him self. After I complained things got better. He got 10 plays in the next game and 6 and 7 in the following games. I was happy with that and he was too. Still below the promised 8 plays in all but 1 games but at this point we took what we could get. Then comes a extra monday night game which was 2 teams combined (on volunteer basis) and was a friendly game. I warned my son to be prepared as there were many more players so he was going to have limited playing time. Then I found out it had extended quarters so I felt good about him getting a few plays. He ended up going in in the final minute of the game only to have the opponent take a knee and end the game. I asked on of the coaches if there had been any issues that had warranted sanctions toward him and there had not be. In the end every reason not to play him was my sons fault. And he was not safe on the field. He is a 170lbs healthy defensive line man (and not a fat kid, just not atletic). He holds his own on the line and rarely gets taken down but he is too slow to have a defensive affect on the game. Is this a dangerous situations? Yet they run kids half his size in receiving paterns that get hit full speed. He only gets his from scrimage. Also he only gets played at the end of the 4th quarter? Is there some law of physics that I am unaware of that makes the end of the 4th quarter a safer time to play?

    The season is now over and I won’t get anything out of it anymore but how do I handle things like this? I don’t need my son to be a starter but he does the work and puts in the work and I just want him to get a fair number of plays so he feals he is contributing. If he would be getting 8-10 plays throughout the game I would be happy. I don’t understand how this is not possible when there are kids that play offense, defense and special teams in over 70% of the plays. How do I avoid these things. What should I have done differently? What are my options now because my son still wants to do football with his friends from school but he is nowhere near ready for it for next year and I am just fearing that he will not get playing time at all and just end up getting cut. If you don’t play and you need to sit out most of the practices than how do you advance?

    Reply
    1. davecisar

      Parent,

      I understand your concern, but it’s really tough to give advice when you only hear one side of a story.

      If your son was disruptive and couldnt get into a 3 point stance, that’s on both him and the coaches. Coaches that manage well, deal well with disruptive players. HOWEVER I have seen a number of very severe ADHD cases where even the most skilled coach had a very difficult time managing the situation.

      Hat’s off to you for attending practice and trying to help. If the coaches had an issue, they should have addressed it with you and worked with you to take corrective action. I’ve always played and counseled youth football coaches to set a minimumn play standard even if there isn’t a league rule to do so. But in order to be eligible for the standard a reasonable code of conduct and practice attendance needs to be adhered to.

      Reply

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