My inner monologue often includes the following statement: "Dear parents, please go away."
Please go away when:
• you are projecting your goals onto your children.
• you are trying to tell coaches how to coach when you have NO idea what you're doing.
• you are making excuses for your children's bad behavior.
• you are deliberately undermining the philosophy of the team.
• you think your child is more important than all the other children on the team.
There is nothing more frustrating than having to deal with parents in the above situations. There is a very delicate balance between coaches, parents and athletes. Anderson and Aberman discuss this relationship in terms of role definition of the coach (2006). They do not, however, define the role of the parent. As suggested by many of the commentaries found on www.thefa.com, the role of the parent ought to be one of support and enthusiasm. When parents are overly vocal in negative or pushy ways, the child of that parent, as well as the rest of the team and other parents become embarrassed. These outbursts also lead to intimidation of players, parents, coaches and referees (www.thefa.com). On a large scale, these outbursts do not create a good image for the team, but on a small scale, the impact can be much more devastating. Verbal attacks of a player's skill send the message that the child is not good enough for the parent, decreasing their self-worth and feelings of competence (Vealey, 2005). Kids reported that they would rather have nothing said than to have parents speaking negatively on the sidelines. The athletes also report that their main objectives in football were to stay fit and enjoy time with their friends (www.thefa.com).
As coaches, we need to help parents understand that children participate in sport at a young age because it is meant to be a fun learning experience to share with friends. The parents also need to understand that sport is about getting every child a chance to play and help them improve as much as possible for them. No matter what the skill level is at the end of the season, if there was improvement, then the child's experience is a success!
I think setting important guidelines in writing for the parents is an important first step in helping them understand their role as parents of athletes. Many school districts distribute a parent code of conduct with sports registration materials; Coaches of the individual teams need to also address these issues with their parents, as the coaches within a district may have different expectations. The resources available to help parents understand their role provide many helpful tips that cover everything from support in practice, to games, to how to be supportive and healthy at home (www.thefa.com). They also provide some excellent probing questions that may help some parents identify problem behaviors before they show up on the sidelines (www.sportsmanship.org). Unfortunately, there will always be parents that don't see that their behavior is potentially damaging to the 3C's felt by the athletes.