Parents form one third of the youth sports support system (alongside coaches and other volunteers). They are the ones driving your athletes to practices and games, providing nutritious half-time snacks, organizing team parties and filling your stands! Most parents are content in their roles as fan and supporter, but how is a coach supposed to handle a sports parent that decides their place is on the field?
Here are 3 ways to manage the helicopter sports parent (hoovering as you coach):
Establish ground rules
Make it very clear to your sports parents at the beginning of the season that the only people allowed in the dugout are the coaches and players. You can explain that you want to minimize the amount of distractions that could divert your player’s attention away from the game…and at the same time communicate that you greatly appreciate their support!
Get them involved in a small way
Parents can’t help themselves. Of course they want to be involved in everything their kid is doing, including your team. If you find yourself with parents that want to help, find a way to let them participate but in a way that actually helps you. Get them to catch for your relief pitcher or take the soccer players on a warm-up jog around the field. Let the parent handle some of the smaller tasks so you can focus more on the game at hand. It makes them feel involved and frees up some of your time!
Speak to them privately
You don’t want to call out one parent in particular for being a helicopter sports parent. This can be embarrassing for your player and puts that parent on the defensive. If you have to talk to one of your parents, make sure it is done privately. Talk to them before or after practice or a game and explain why they need to reel it in a little bit. It’s not that you don’t appreciate their dedication to the team and their child’s athletic career, but they need to treat you like the coach so their child sees you as the coach as well.
Every team is bound to have one mom or dad that thinks they missed their calling to be a youth sports coach (by all means ask them to volunteer!). Most of it stems from the fact that your team is important to their child, so it becomes important to them. Involved parents are great, but there is a fine line between involved parent and helicopter parent. As a coach, you have to find a way to remind them that you are in charge of the team without causing any friction between you and them.