We have an ongoing dilemma in youth soccer. Some of the biggest cheers and whistles come when someone boots the ball as far as they can down the field. The parents are so proud of their child when they see them make contact and watch the ball soar through the air to the other team. “Did you see how far he/she kicked that ball! Wooooooooo!” Ah, the dilemma of the uneducated parent. After the game they probably congratulate their child on that wonderful boomer down the field. What that parent is actually doing to their child is encouraging the opposite of what you might be coaching.
Too often parents think they are a better coach for their child than the actual coach, even if they have never played the game. The above example happens all the time. After the game the parent of a child will congratulate them on something that is negative. The likelihood of that player doing the same thing in the next game is then increased because of the satisfaction that child gets from the praise of their parent. This dilemma has been going on for years and it’s time we put a stop to it; it starts with you as a coach.
How to deal with the uneducated parent is simple, you educate them. Before your season starts it’s always important to hold a parents meeting. There are several things that you need to go over which might include: your philosophy, rules, fundraisers, practice schedules (carpool options) and anything else that you deem important to go over to have a successful season. This meeting should also be the time you discuss what your role as a coach is and what their role as a parent should be. It is important you distinguish the difference between the two and make sure they understand that it’s for the better of their child. It will be confusing to them if the coach is telling them one thing and the parent is telling them something completely opposite. Let them know the importance of letting you coach your philosophy. If they don’t agree with it and think they can do a better job then it might be best for them to pursue another team, lay your foot down.
A great way to educate the parents about the game is to have them shadow a practice with you. Not only will this give an opportunity to get them involved but it will also get them to understand your philosophy. If they can understand that booting the ball down the field as far as they can is counterproductive to what you are teaching them this will prevent them from cheering and encouraging their child to do so during a game. What this also does is gives them an opportunity to talk to their kid after a game about the positive and negatives of how they played. Note, it is important to discuss both the positives and negatives. If you stress too much on the negatives the child will begin to think they are not good enough and will lose interest in playing. Being on page with the parent is equally as important as being on page with your players. A parent who understands the game gives the child an outlet to further discuss their feelings on certain situations.
Educating both your players and parents can be a tedious task but it will alleviate the headaches that will follow if you don’t. One of the most difficult tasks of coaching youth soccer isn’t managing your players, it’s managing the parents. With your help in educating the parents we will reduce this dilemma of cheering and encouraging the opposite of what you are coaching. Take a stand, educate the parents!