We have to remember that on the whole, parents have the biggest influence on their children and sporting experience.
Parents make a massive contribution ranging from the organising of schedules, the washing of kit, the transport to and from venues as well as funding equipment and petrol costs. As a result of this they can be heavily invested in their child’s sporting experience.
They also spend and have spent the most time with their children and have framed many of the ways that their children behave or perceive the world. Children often take their lead from parents and may mimic or copy parental attitudes and behaviour.
No matter how good our coaching and the environment we create is in a sporting context and what we choose to celebrate and focus upon, it can all be undone in the home environment if the parents are not given the right levels of support.
Coaches often bemoan that parents deliver conflicting messages to their children without investing the time to support and encourage parents to ‘sing from the same hymn sheet’.
Parents are an essential member of the athlete support network and are a critical part of your inter-disciplinary thinking towards the social, emotional and behavioural development of their child and your player.
Some coaches still believe that the best way forward is to have little or no involvement whatsoever with parents, often taking the ‘leave them at the door’ attitude. Other coaches moan that they are used by parents as a cheap ‘babysitting service’ and would love to have more engagement with their athlete’s parents.
Whatever your current views, we need to remember that the athlete must remain at the heart of the experience and parents have the most influential role. They have significant contact time with their child, travel to and from training, decisions on where they play and train, make choices and inform their child around commitment and engagement.
The diagram above is a great visual reminder that the athlete remains at the centre of all decisions. We will consider the complexities of the relationships between all of these key stakeholders in another article.
The challenge to coaches is to think about how we perceive the parental role, do we as coaches do enough to support and inform, are we creative in finding ways to communicate and bring them into the process as a valued member of the team?
- How often do you create opportunities to communicate to parents?
- If you were/are a parent what would you want from the coach?
- Are you open and accessible to your parents?
I heard a quote recently from a coach who said, ‘we would never leave a physio on the bench, so why do we do it with parents?’ A refreshing quote from a coach who is a member of a growing group of coaches that have started to recognise the many positives that parents can bring to the coaching experience.
How can you bring your parents into the team?
What role in the team will they play?
Do they know what ‘this’ is and have you prepared them for the role?
Two recent highlights from the sporting world emphasise once again the importance of the parental role.
Bianca Andreescu after defeating Serena Williams in the US Open Tennis Final said about her mum,
‘Without you, I don’t know what i’d do. But with you, I know there is nothing I can’t do’
Jordan Henderson on captaining Liverpool when winning the Champions League Final earlier this year could not wait to catch up with his father. Watch the video here.
What three things are you going to do to either promote a better relationship with the parents of the athletes you coach or add to what you currently do to enhance the experience? It could all start by creating an opportunity to get to know who they are… rather than ‘Sam’s Mum’.