How To Handle A Difficult Parent

In youth sports today, the unfortunate nightmare of most coaches is “the parent.” What should be a harmonious coach-parent relationship that is focused on the best interest of kid has evolved into an adversarial one more often than not. However, in all of my years as a coach, I have yet to meet the parent that signed their kid up in a sports program for the purpose of driving the coach crazy.

So the question becomes, why does the difficult parent exist? 

In my experience, parents are not really difficult; what they are is passionate.

The source of that passion varies from parent to parent, but the bottom line is all parents have some level of passion that they organically bring to the table. And that passion inevitably permeates the team environment, thus making parents really “part of the team.”

Part of coaching in the 21st century demands an evolved philosophy on the part of coaches that parents must be coached no different than players must be coached. Coaches cannot approach coaching the way they were coached as players. Times have changed. The days of not talking to parents and engaging with them as part of the team process is over.

The master coach will understand that parents are not the enemy but in fact a valuable asset.

Parents are helpful extensions of the coach to effectively communicate with players, positively fuel a team and expand the overall organization for the better. At the end of the day, parents just want to see their kids successful and happy. And to the end, a coach can work with parents to both help kids become the best versions of themselves as well as parent can help coaches understand and better connect with their players.

In any relationship there will be conflict; that is just part of being human. However, conflict with a parent should not be translated as that parent being difficult. In fact, conflict is part of the “iron sharpening iron” process that is healthy for all relationships and should be welcomed by both the coach and parents. It is through the process of conflict resolution that coaches and parents find collaborative ways to find growth, development and improvement in student-athletes. Without question most people do not enjoy conflict but to have a healthy coach-parent relationship, conflict must exist at times.


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