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Playing It Cool: Tips for Coaches on Dealing With Difficult Parents

By Nelson Gord, Next College Student Athlete Team Edition, 05/15/18, 12:00PM CDT

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Learn strategies that can help coaches cultivate a calm, positive environment

The code of conduct can be fairly simple and should focus on setting a good example for the athletes and can be signed by each parent. It’s an easy way to get everyone on the same page.

When it comes to youth sports, even adults can lose their cool in the heat of the moment. Get them on their best behavior by setting boundaries and keeping lines of communication open.

Sports are all about the spirit of competition, and they can be a great influence on kids by helping them to stay active and improve social skills. However, the competitive environment can also lead to things getting pretty heated from time to time, whether that’s in the game or on the sidelines.

Parents can sometimes lose their cool and go overboard by yelling at athletes, or confronting coaches or officials in an inappropriate manner. This not only puts a damper on the fun, it sets a poor example for kids.

Coaches already have plenty to worry about when it comes to the game and preparing their athletes for competition. Also having to deal with parents’ behavior can seem downright overwhelming.

Fortunately, when it comes to difficult parents, there are some strategies that can help coaches cultivate a calm, positive environment. The important thing to keep in mind is that many issues can be solved with patience and proper communication.

So, if you’re looking to curb parents’ behavior, give some of these tips a test run:

Make a good first impression

The best way to deal with bad behavior is to quash it before it starts. For parents, a lot of frustration can be averted by simply keeping them in the loop about what’s happening with their kids’ teams. (After all, teenagers aren’t exactly known for their willingness to talk at length with their parents.)

At the beginning of the season, it’s smart to open the lines of communication with a parent meeting. Parents can learn about the season’s game and practice schedule, get the coach’s contact info and learn about their coaching style, goals and expectations for the season. Most importantly, they’ll realize they can communicate with the coach instead of letting their emotions boil over.

Create a code of conduct

A code of conduct is all about establishing boundaries in clearly defined terms. By making parents aware of what is acceptable behavior, and what isn’t, it puts more pressure on them to act accordingly. The code of conduct can be fairly simple and should focus on setting a good example for the athletes and can be signed by each parent. It’s an easy way to get everyone on the same page.

Communicate your coaching strategy

Parents are more likely to get frustrated when they feel like they’re kept in the dark. By communicating with them your approach to playing time, roster decisions, etc., they’ll get a better understanding of the team and have an opportunity to see things from your viewpoint.

They may not always agree with how you’re running the team, but at least they’ll know your motivations.

Don’t talk to anyone yelling at you

This one is more or less a deal-breaker. Yelling at the coach in public sets a poor example, and it also contributes to coach burnout. There are plenty of other ways to communicate one’s frustration.

In this type of situation, try to stay calm and communicate that you can meet in private to deal with any questions or concerns. Most importantly, do not get pulled into a shouting match.

Sometimes, simply walking away is the best decision you can make.

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