Commitment to Partnership

Commitment to Partnership

The partnership between coach and parent is all about commitment. Parental involvement in sport is generally crucial to athletes at a young age. The balance between parents and coaches is most important at the youth level and also the most prevalent at any level. It is important that parents be committed to their children's athletic involvement. However, it is also important that parents are not overcommitted and that both coaches and parents understand boundaries in sport.
Anderson and Aberman (2006) present a coaching pyramid that demonstrates a simple view of the interaction between coach, parent, and athlete. First, they state the importance of parents making a commitment to their children's involvement, but not being controlling and providing space as needed. This applies especially to the coach, as well. The pyramid demonstrates an ideal balance between all parties. Family should always come first for athletes. There should be no boundary between parent and child. There needs to be some sort of boundary between coach and athlete. This is demonstrated in the pyramid by a dotted line. Anderson and Aberman refer to the coach as a consultant. The coach should leave parenting to parents and can not chose to be what Anderson and Aberman refer to as a social therapist to the athlete. Ideally, a coach should exceptionally lead athletes in the respective sport, but can offer guidance in other areas as needed. Meetings between coaches, players, and parents should establish an acceptable amount of interaction between all parties.
The problem of over-commitment is examined in the FA Parent Guide. Parents who are too involved can be problematic when they are living vicariously through their children on the competitive field. Behaviors such as coaching from the sideline can undermine the coach. Parents undoubtedly mean well when they seek active involvement in their children's sport, but must leave coaching to the coach.
As well as creating a montage for the over-committed parent, the FA Parent Guide also offers commentary for how youth feel about parent behaviors. It is essential that parents and coaches work together to listen to why young athletes participate in sport. The majority of young soccer players in the commentary mentioned "fun" and "enjoyment" as reasons why they play soccer. They are mostly intrinsically motivated as they play for love of the game rather than "winning at all costs". Young athletes want support from parents in all situations, good and bad. The over-committed parent who exhibits controlling behavior at the youth level can confuse young athletes. This confusion can reduce intrinsic motivation and lead to drop-out. Again, it is essential in youth sport that parents and coaches partner up to keep kids in sport for love of the game. Parents may not always be aware of how to translate parenting into sport. A good coach will lead by example. Referring back to the coaching pyramid of Anderson and Aberman, the coach sits on top. The coach is ultimately the leader in sport, but interaction with parents is important to make the best opportunities for the athlete.

Matt DeVinney