THE TRICKY BALANCING ACT THAT IS ALSO KNOWN AS THE PARENT-COACH RELATIONSHIP

By Frank E. Bartscheck II

No matter which side of the equation that you may personify, the relationship between a parent and coach often presents challenges for both parties.

The Alabama Media Group recently invited over 1,300 high school coaches in Alabama to take part in a survey regarding their experiences within the parent-coach dynamic. The replies from the 300 coaches that participated provide an enlightening insight into a coach’s side of this relationship.

While the majority of high school coaches engage in positive interactions with parents, it is the negative interactions that often gain public notoriety and create the biggest headaches for coaches.

As a result, many coaches have come to realize the 95% of the parents they deal with will usually account for only five percent of the problems within the parent-coach paradigm. Conversely, 95% of the problems will occur as a result of five percent of the parents.

These numbers are not static, but they nonetheless effectively illustrate the playing field that coaches often must inhabit when engaging with parents.

The characteristic of the parent-coach relationship that is cited as most problematic revolves around communication. Coaches are often apprehensive to open direct lines of communication with parents; they view it as opening the barn door and letting the proverbial horse out of the barn.

The logic goes: once lines of communication are open, it gives an overbearing parent the green-light to offer suggestions or apply pressure.

Many coaches dread the day when a parent attempts to bend their ear. Jason Outlaw, a baseball coach at Vigor high school in Ala., summed it up by saying, “Any time a parent comes to a coach, it’s almost always with a negative and we get bombarded with negativity a lot.”

When a child is involved, it is often difficult for parents to remain calm, uninvolved emotionally and realistic. All parents want what is best for their children. However, the heat-of-the-moment can sometimes blind parents from seeing what is truly best for the child.

An article published by Gregg S. Heinzmann, head of the Youth Sports Research Council at Rutgers University, examines the relationship between parents and coaches in youth sports. The article identifies four key points that coaches wish parents always kept in mind:

Your child is not as talented as you believe.

It is almost impossible for a parent to be truly objective when it comes to judging their child’s athletic ability. Therefore, it is up to parents to trust in the judgement of the coach as much as possible.

Your child is more resilient that you realize.

Parents are always expected to look out for their children. However, when it comes to youth competition, it is necessary for parents to take a step back and allow their children to learn and grow.

It is unhealthy for parents to try and solve all of their children’s problems. Children benefit by learning from mistakes. Athletic competition provides an excellent forum for children to learn from their mistakes and develop character.

However, this can only be done by experiencing failure, which means that parents must allow their children to not always succeed.

Don’t live vicariously through your children. Remember, your athletic career is complete.

Regardless of the level of competition you may have reached or how distinguished your athletic accomplishments may or may not have been, it is in a child’s best interest that parents not live vicariously through their experiences.

While youth athletic experiences can often bond parents more closely to their children, the parent must remember living vicariously through their children is incredibly unhealthy for all parties involved.

Remember that your child’s coach is most likely doing the best he or she can.

It is often easy to point out the negatives in someone’s performance, especially when it involves your child’s coach. However, it’s always effective to first look for the good in someone’s efforts before identifying the bad. Only when this tact is taken, can a balanced point of view be attained.

Remember, it is exceedingly rare that a coach is purposefully mistreating, or worse yet, actually out to get your child.

I personally know how difficult it can be for a coach to interact with parents. As a coach and human being, we want to be friendly and engage with parents. However, as a coach, one quickly learns this type of friendly interaction can often lead to cultivating a relationship that is more difficult than it is worth.