If you asked a dozen sports coaches what they wanted from parents this season you’d probably get a dozen different answers. Every coach has their own style and with that comes the dreams of the “perfect” sports parent; maybe that parent is more involved, or maybe they are less “helicopter-y”. No two coaches are exactly the same and these are just four of things we’ve heard sports coaches say they wish parents would do over the years.
Let your child fail or succeed on their own two feet.
A Californian Commissioner of Athletics nailed it with his open letter to sports parents;
Help your son/daughter by leaving them alone. Allow them to fail or succeed on their own. They will grow from the failure and take great joy in knowing they have succeeded on their own. Today, they may appear to appreciate your intervention, but more likely they will resent your interference later. Allow your son/daughter to come home and air their feelings about the day’s events without fear of you jumping in trying to solve their problems. Listen to them and use it as an opportunity to help them learn, not as a way of suppressing their independence by your interference.
Let the coach be the coach.
If you really wanted to coach your son or daughter you could have volunteered before the season started. And you are most certainly invited to volunteer next season! But for right now, you have to let the coach be the coach and try to keep your sideline coaching to a minimum. It’s easy to forget that the coach has to look out for a dozen youth athletes, not just your own child, and that means dividing their attention in 12 directions at once. When you undermine the coach from the sidelines you are putting your player in an awkward position. You, as mom and dad, are the one they are supposed to listen to. But didn’t you also teach them to listen to teachers and coaches and other adults in charge as well? Imagine if you had two bosses that were asking you to do different things; how would that make you feel?
Lend a helping hand when it’s needed.
Although most coaches don’t want their sports parents undermining their authority, more than a few coaches could use a little extra help every now and then. Even something as simple as carrying equipment to the field can mean a lot. Some coaches may need help organizing team dinners, carpooling kids to and from practice, or even running drills. Maybe you weren’t ready to take the full responsibility of being a volunteer coach, but if your head coach is struggling please lend a helping hand. Maybe you’d make a great assistant coach for the season! Most coaches want to get parents involved in some way (provided it’s helpful!) and they’ll happily find something for you to manage.
Set realistic expectations for yourself and your child.
Although it could happen, if your son or daughter is just learning how to shoot/pass/swing/throw/dribble this season please remember that this is just the beginning of their athletic career! At a younger level most coaches are more concerned about making sure the players have a good time and learning the fundamentals than they are about running complicated drills and plays. The first seasons of youth sports usually determine if a kid learns to love sports or wants to walk away by the time they are 13. Don’t put so much pressure on your player too soon or they could burnout before they even get started.