Fostering positive parent-coach relationships

William Woods EDU

The National Council of Youth Sports (NCYS) reports more than 60 million registered participants in organized youth sports programs in the United States. (That’s over 15 million more than the reported 44 million in 2008.) It’s no denying that youth sports is an integral part of growing up in American culture — from little league baseball to ballet.

While no sport or organization is the same, each requires a certain level of parent involvement to operate at its best, from rides to and from practice to helping with snacks to cheering the children on.  Unfortunately, some kinds of parent involvement — for example, coaching from the sidelines, or pushing a child to burnout — in athletics can breed negative consequences. One study found that many high school coaches cite dealing with parents as one of their most significant issues.

It’s a common concern many athletics and activities directors face, and one William Woods’ Master of Education in Athletics/Activities Administration students discuss frequently in courses such as EDU 512 Current Issues/Common Challenges in Athletics/Activities Administration, or EDU526 Developing Character & Citizenship.

Athletics and activities directors, coaches and others in youth sports club leadership roles must learn the best practices for bringing out the best in parent-coach relationships. From the stands to the sidelines, parent-coach relationships must be intentional, healthy, informative, and serve the ultimate goal — to benefit the child or young adult.

According to Shelley Holden, Associate Professor of Health at the University of South Alabama, “Now more than ever, parents are actively involved in their children’s lives through athletic endeavors.”

In an article published in The Sport Journal, Holden writes, “It has been theorized that over-involved parents can create high levels of pressure, but parents who are moderately involved tend to provide the right balance to facilitate enjoyment of the sport while also challenging the athlete to grow and develop his/her skills.”

Educating parents on their responsibilities and expectations is among coaches’ professional duties, writes Holden.

In an excerpt from “Sport Club Management” by Matthew J. Robinson, published on Human Kinetics Robinson writes, “Rather than casting [parents] as peripheral to the sport experience, club leaders and coaches should consider parents valuable resources who deserve to feel valued, respected, and central. Research has shown that parents, along with coaches, peers, and siblings, play an important role in athletes’ prolonged sport participation.”

Robinson suggests a few steps to building effective coach-parent relationships, including embracing collaboration, developing a shared understanding, and being transparent about one’s coaching philosophy.

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