Have you ever had someone try to climb in your canoe while you were in the middle of the lake? Talk about a disaster. It’s almost impossible to get in without disrupting, flipping or even sinking the canoe. This is the picture I often see in the sports world today between parents and coaches.
As coaches we often try to keep parents out of our boat when it comes to our teams. We say things like:
- “they’re crazy”
- “I am the coach”
- “they have never played a sport in their life”
- “I don’t tell them how to parent so they don’t need to tell me how to coach”
I understand where you are coming from and if I am honest, I have made some of those statements myself. However, the longer I have been in the athletic world the more I have realized that parents need to be in the boat with us on this journey.
WARNING: If we don’t invite them in the boat at the proper time they will try to get in at the wrong time and perhaps intentionally or unintentionally sink the boat.
One of the most effective ways we can improve the parent relationship is by initiating the invitation to come on the journey with us. If we are honest, they are coming either way so inviting them and then giving them their proper seat and job description can save you a whole lot of headache and will help you arrive at the determined destination.
I believe there are four ways we can invite parents to partner on the journey with us:
- Connection-get to know your athletes and get to know their parents. As we always say, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”. Get to know the parents and you probably have a better understanding of the athlete. Connecting with the family as a whole when possible allows you to better navigate the athlete relationship and gives you an asset vs an ally when it comes to parents. If our goal is to have maximum impact on the child then putting in the effort to connect with the parents is worth it. To learn more about connection click here!
- Communication-As coaches if we don’t define the standard then our parents and those on the outside will define it for us. This is why it’s critical for us to have a living and breathing mission statement and core values. This will become the standard and filter in which we make all of our decisions and be the selling point to our parents that our programs are about much more than scholarships and skill. Communicating often about who we are and why we do things will give parents better perspective about the sport journey and will help them zoom out and see what really matters.
“Don’t get so consumed with what matters now that you lose sight of what matters most” Heath Eslinger
- Collaboration-If we are going to ask them to work the concession stand, attend games, wash cars and sell coupon cards then we need to be willing to collaborate with them about their most prized possession. Collaboration is not about giving them the power to make decisions it’s about utilizing their knowledge to gain useful information so that we can make the best decision. Who knows their kids better than anyone? Parents! Stop living in fear of asking parents questions. If you will lead the conversation, then you will have an opportunity to navigate where it goes. If they lead the conversation……okay, let’s stay positive you just lead it. We all know it could get ugly. Check out this video that shows how parents could possibly provide you insight on your players:
- Celebration-We often tell the parents what they do wrong and we often share what their kids do wrong. Begin to look for ways to celebrate what they do well. Remember, “what gets rewarded gets repeated”. If our only conversations are correction and there is never any celebration, then they will probably simply stick to correcting us behind our back as well. Create a habit of honoring good behavior in both parents and players. Often times they are not looking for playing time they are simply looking for their child to be validated. We all like to be valued so be strategic and consistent on how you can value their child and the relationship you have with parents.
Remember, you are the leader of the corporate team. They are the parent of the individual child. If we want them to put themselves in our shoes, then we need to be willing to put ourselves in their shoes. As a parent of four I have learned just how hard it is to parent well. After 20 years in coaching I also know how hard it is to be a great coach. What if we took two really difficult jobs and worked together for the sake of the child? I believe we would truly “restore the joy” for coach, parent, and athlete.
Invite them in the boat while it’s on the land, offer them the proper seat, encourage them to row in the same direction and enjoy arriving at the desired destination.
Thanks for being a Coach!
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