Ask The Experts
Q: I have coached six seasons of Under 8, Under 10 and Under 12 softball and this is the first season I have had a trying time with the parents on the sidelines. The girls have poor attitudes on the field and really get on each other's nerves at practice. I think the parents’ behaviors are affecting the girls’ attitudes and team cohesion. How can I deal with the parents and bring my team together?
A: When it comes to sports parents they can provide both the best – and worst – experiences for youth sport coaches. Fortunately, most parents do a really nice job cheering on the kids competing and also show their appreciation for all the time coaches volunteer to make everything run smoothly. On the other hand, some parents allow their negative emotions out, leading to a negative experience for coaches and, most importantly, the kids who are competing that only want to have a good time.
Many times when parents act out at games it’s because of a combination of spontaneous emotions and a lack of understanding of how to actually be a positive, supporting fan. This is especially true for parents who did not play sports when they were younger, prompting a great solution to the problem – pre-season parent meetings.
The parent meeting should not be viewed as a punitive measure, but instead a great opportunity to go over a number of team-related issues – including how to be a cheering and supportive fan from the stands.
Prepare for your meeting by considering the following sport psychology tips:
- Go in with a positive attitude! If you do, the parents will, too.
- Have an agenda, and stick to it. Be sure to move the meeting along and stay on time. Keep in mind how busy parents are and the efforts they make to attend the meeting.
- Distribute, in writing, all requirements, dates, deadlines and any other important information.
- Talk about fan behavior! Make sure to emphasize that kids play sports to have fun, and how important cheering is for self-esteem development. It is also important to specifically list prohibited behaviors, including derogatory language, physical violence, humiliation tactics and even threatening body language.
Remember, positive team cohesion can be established and built upon by starting the year off right with a successful pre-season meeting.
When kids see parents cheering and supporting the team in healthy ways, your team will quickly become more cohesive – and have more fun, too.
Dr. Chris Stankovich is the Founder of Advanced Human Performance Systems, and has created an entire sports life skills and performance enhancement product line designed to help athletes, coaches and sports parents. Learn more at www.drstankovich.com
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