6 Keys to a Healthy Parent/Coach Relationship

There’s no secret formula to navigating through relationships with your children’s coaches, however; there are things you can be aware of that will make it much easier to achieve a healthy parent/coach relationship. If you find yourself already struggling with your child’s coach, it’s helpful to pinpoint the causes. As you read that last sentence you may have thought, “I already know the cause, he or she is a bad coach!” Though that’s a possibility, give this a shot and delve a little deeper into the subject. After all, your athlete’s happiness and success are worth laying aside any predetermined conclusions, and doing a little bit of self-evaluating too.

1. Understanding roles: A parent/coach relationship can take a downward turn when the roles of each become clouded. I get it. As parents, we often feel that our parent card trumps all other cards. We know what’s best for our kids, end of story. In general, this statement is true; however, aside from what we might think, there are subjects that we are not the authority on. We take our kids to doctors, and we put their learning in the hands of teachers. We realize that when promoting what’s best for them, we sometimes have to turn to those who know a little bit more about the subject than we do. Cheer on your athlete. Motivate him or her to give their best effort, but allow the coach to do just that - coach. I’ve found that when you respect the coach’s role, you’ll receive mutual respect as the parent. It’s in this environment that your athlete will thrive most. Having too many voices telling your athlete what to do on the field or court, will not lead to their success. It will only lead to frustration for all involved.

2. Realize common goals: A good relationship of any kind is built on commonalities. You want to see your athlete succeed, and to have a successful team, their coach wants them to reach their highest potential as well. Work together to reach the common goal. If you want your athlete to have more playing time, or to simply improve his or her skill level, have them speak to their coach regarding what they can do to achieve the aforementioned. Coaches appreciate the athlete who has the drive to be better…to better help the team. Taking this route will yield much better results than a parent complaining to a coach. Realize the goal, and you're one big step in the right direction!

3. Realize there are goal differences as well: Just as every good relationship is built on commonalities, a healthy relationship can also respect differences. Parents and coaches share the goal of athletes reaching their highest potential, but although it may end there for the parent, that’s only half of the equation for the coach. The coach’s other priority is to reach success as a team. You may want for your daughter to be a top-scoring forward, but if her team is hurting for defenders, the coach may feel she best helps the team playing outside back. This is when the real strain on the parent/coach relationship can come in if you’re not careful. Your big picture is your athlete “winning.” The coach’s big picture is the team winning. In these moments, we have the opportunity as parents to teach our children how to put team before self; how to give their best no matter what position they’re playing; and how to have a good attitude even when things aren’t going the way they had planned. After all, isn’t that life? Sports are a tremendous tool to build character and work-ethic for the world that awaits them outside of their sport.

4. Coaches are human too: In a perfect world, all coaches would be good coaches. They wouldn’t make mistakes, and they’d never give parents reason to be disgruntled. I’d be lying if I said that I’ve liked every coach my children have had, or that they were all good coaches. One thing I have learned is that how you handle your relationship with that coach, directly impacts your child. The parent/coach relationship requires a balance. Understand that your child’s coach will make some mistakes, and show some grace. Many coaches, depending on the level of sport, are volunteers who rush to practice after a long day of work. It's only because of their love of the game and coaching that they’ll give all they have left in their tank. Even those who are professional coaches make mistakes. They may play one athlete over another, only to realize that wasn't the right call. Obviously, there are some non-negotiables. If you feel your child is not in a healthy environment, then that will take some serious attention. But when it comes to simple disagreements, keep things in perspective. Realize that your child is watching how you handle the situation. Whatever attitude you display toward the coach, will be the same attitude that your child will show. Often, the right attitude and work-ethic will take care of things.

5. The Magical 24 Hour Rule: Many coaches have the “24 Hour Rule.” If this rule hasn’t been implemented by your coach, I strongly suggest you implement it yourself. One of the great aspects of sports is the passion that they are played with. When you mix the emotional element of sports with your desire to see your child succeed at what he or she works so hard for, things can become elevated when the coach does something you disagree with. Sometimes emotion can override reasoning. Give yourself 24 hours before approaching the coach. Many times, you’ll find that within those 24 hours you’re able to think about it reasonably and can approach it much more level-headed. You may also realize that it’s not even necessary to address. You’re not just doing yourself or the coach a favor by adhering to this rule, more than anything, you’re doing your child a favor.

6. Don’t teach your child to quit: How you handle your relationship with your child’s coach is an example that they will follow…whether good or bad. In life, we don’t always get to choose those who we work with. We don’t get to choose all our bosses or teachers. Just because you don’t like the position or playing time your child has been given, don’t teach them to quit. Teach them to continue to work hard; to persevere; to become even better at what they do. Teach them that regardless of the circumstance, they can become the best athlete and person they can possibly be.

Read More Articles by Amber Michel

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The Athlete's Parent Editor

Amber Michel

An on-the-go mother of 3 young athletes, and wife to a youth football coach, Amber's passion is to educate, encourage, and connect our sports community to raise a generation of healthy and successful athletes! She proudly does this with the help of The Athlete's Parent's team of experts.


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