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Simplifying Football for Youth Coaches

3 Keys to Having a Positive Experience with Youth Football Parents

Written By: hawkcoach - Apr• 04•11

I’m sure you’ve seen it first hand or have at least heard the horror stories. Headlines such as: “Coach, Parent Fight at Youth Football Game”, “Parents Gone Bad: Fight Breaks Out at Youth Football Game” or “Youth Coach Suspended After Verbal Confrontation with Parents” have become all too common. Parents have high expectations for their children and their children’s coaches.

What are three things you can do to have a positive experience with parents?

  1. Communicate -  Sure communicating with parents is obvious, but you can rarely over-communicate.
    • Introduction letter – At the beginning of the season pass out an introduction letter.  Introduce yourself and your staff with a brief biography.  State your team rules and expectations relating to attendance, tardiness and discipline.  Briefly explain the type of offense and defense you’ll run and your coaching philosophy.  Most importantly tell parents how you expect to handle conflict.  For example, I’ve had a rule that if parents are upset with me about a game that they need to wait until the next day before discussing with me.  I’m happy to listen to their concerns but emotions run high during and immediately after games and it gives time for everyone to cool off and be able to speak to each other with respect.  Also, make sure they understand your league and team rules about not yelling at or speaking to officials or players on the other team.
    • Email updates – Send an email out once a week and explain what is happening in practices or games.  Parents love knowing that you have an overall plan of where you are going so share with them what is happening.  Don’t focus on players but on what you are teaching in practices and how that’s important to development.  Share what you are seeing during the games and what you and the team need to improve upon.
    • Don’t ever discuss a specific players performance with anyone outside your coaching staff and his parents.  Telling Johnny’s parents that Josh can’t learn the playbook doesn’t serve any purpose.

      Communicating Parents Youth Football

      Parents Watching Youth Football Game

  2. Involve – Have times during practice where you invite parents to participate.  I’ve coached football teams with rosters ranging from 14 to 21 players but never enough to field a full offense and defense.  Sometimes you want to have your defense learn how to line up and attack an unusual offense or you’ll want your offense to have a full defense to walk through their blocking assignments.  Recruit parents to help field your scout team.  If you have a specific concept you want to teach your offensive linemen maybe you invite their parents to come on to the field and observe you teaching it so they can help you reinforce it to their child.
  3. Show Respect & Concern - If you want to be a youth football coach you are going to need to be able to control your emotions.  Sure, some parents are going to be unreasonable, but most conflict with parents comes from their viewpoint that they want what’s best for their kid.  When a parent comes to you with a concern start by listening without objecting or interrupting.  Try to see the issue from their side by putting yourself in their shoes.  If you are in the wrong, even unintentionally, admit it.  Help them to see the bigger picture and your goals for their child and the team.  If they are being unreasonable or are asking you to do something that would compromise what you said you would do at the outset of the season, politely tell them why you can’t take that course of action.  Sometimes you may have to agree to disagree with a parent but it doesn’t mean each of you can’t still show respect for one another.

Coaches never like to have parents who are not on board with what they are trying to accomplish.  You can make your coaching experience much more enjoyable by having a great relationship with the parents by communicating clear expectations.  The parents will be much more knowledgeable fans and give you more support if they understand what you are trying to accomplish so involve them as much as practicable.  Finally, never step outside of keeping your cool and showing respect and concern – not only to the parents but to coaches, players and officials.

Have you had any negative experiences with overzealous parents or care to share some suggestions on how to communicate with youth football parents?  Visit our Plug ‘N Play Football Message Board

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