How to deal with parents in football
Managing potentially pushy parents can be tricky – even experienced coaches sometimes struggle. But, if you get your interactions right, parents and carers can play a huge part in developing skilful players. So, here are three simple ways to get them onside.
Explain your approach
This is about communicating what you want to achieve with your team.
When everyone's on the same page, it becomes much easier to develop skilful players. So, at the start of each season, explain how you want the team to develop – and how you plan to get them there. Take the following example.
"My aim is to try to meet the needs of each player. I want to work on their level of skill and make sure that everyone feels included. To do this, I need to establish a strong and trusting relationship and, where possible, make sure my sessions include games designed to challenge every individual."
Stating your objectives like this is essential. It means that parents can decide – upfront – whether they want to buy in.
Be consistent, confident and clear
Every coach gets feedback from spectators. And, come matchday, it's often parents who have the most to say.
It can be hard to know how to react if you receive a negative comment. But this situation actually offers a great opportunity to restate your approach and explain that you're playing the long game. For example, in response to a parent who expects you to dictate every move on the pitch, you could say something like:
"My aim is to encourage the team to solve problems themselves. This means I'm not going to step in whenever something goes wrong during a match. I want the players to try to come up with some solutions. That's why we prioritise exploration and creativity in training."
As a coach, your role is to intervene at appropriate moments. This could be a well-timed comment mid-game, but it could also be allowing your team to work things out on their own.
Being consistent, confident and clear helps parents to understand how you plan to develop your players. Once they 'get it', they can support your approach and reinforce it with their children.
Get parents involved
Skilful players are curious, creative and committed.
You expect this of your team, so why not ask it of their parents and carers too?
When children see their role models displaying certain behaviours, they're more likely to act in the same way. Positive reinforcement can then help cement things even further. For example, "I watched you after you missed that first shot. You didn't get disappointed; in fact, you tried even harder. Well done!"
Another way to involve parents is to explain how they can support their child before and after a match. The basis of this is simple: avoid applying too much pressure.
On the way to a game, parents should never discuss:
- the ability of other players
- how much time each person gets on the pitch
- any issues they have with how the coach runs the team.
They should also avoid overloading their child with things to think about or do.
After the game, it's important to avoid a post-match inquest. Parents can explain what they noticed and enjoyed, but the focus should be on the child's experience. This includes talking about:
- what they liked about the match
- what they did well – and what they're getting better at
- what happened that links to the coach's approach, e.g. they solved a problem creatively.
If the team lost, this is also a great time to remind children that winning is less important than taking part and working on their skills.
Lots of parents do these things naturally. But we all know the odd mum or dad who's a stickler for the perfect performance – or who comments on everything the coach does wrong. Unfortunately, this type of communication can have a big negative impact.
Managing parents is hard, but getting it right is a great way to promote player development. When everyone understands what you want to achieve and supports your aims, your team will have more fun, more freedom and more opportunity to work on their skills.