How to Keep Parents Happy on Your Youth Team

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As much as parents want to say their children’s youth team sports experience is solely about the kids, they are just as involved as well. Mothers and fathers want children to succeed and have fun; but if that doesn’t happen, sometimes it’s tougher on the parents than the kids. According to a survey by Liberty Mutual’s Play Positive initiative, 8 of 10 parents say they take an active role in their children’s athletic endeavors. That’s excellent if the parents are supportive and not overly focusing upon winning and losing, but it also places some pressure on coaches who likely have the same goals.

No youth sports team coach wants his players’ parents to be unhappy; after all, many coaches are parents themselves and truly have the kids’ best interests in mind. Nevertheless, the most well-meaning mothers and fathers can become frustrated and unfairly criticize a coach, and the most organized coach will make a mistake that will annoy his team’s parents. Usually, these issues are resolved amicably, but avoiding them altogether can go a long way toward keeping the peace. Here are a few things you can do to keep parents happy on your youth team:

EFFECTIVELY COMMUNICATE

Nothing exasperates busy parents more than shuttling their child to a practice, only to discover it was canceled. Or perhaps those parents didn’t know it was their turn for snack, leaving a roster full of tired faces wondering where the juice boxes are after a game. Sometimes, coaches simply forget, which is unfortunate but understandable (they are busy people as well, and are mostly volunteers). Other times, the methods they use to contact their teams’ coaches aren’t effective—they might forget their cell phones and not be able to call or text, or they don’t have every family entered into their address books, or they don’t realize that they never hit send on an email. This is an area in which online league management software greatly helps. Communication through the application is much simpler because access to contact info is easily available, and because messages can be sent directly from the software.

ALWAYS BE ORGANIZED

Part of the joy of youth team sports is watching kids improve over time. That improvement is difficult if you don’t come to practice and games organized, ready to teach. Parents notice when players are getting better in a competitive setting—even if the team isn’t winning. They also notice if you are just winging it, without any plan. Hour-long, full-team scrimmages (a popular fallback for unorganized coaches) rarely develop skills that will translate into improvement on game day. Therefore, plan your practices, organize your season, and always inform parents of your goals with the team. Just taking a few minutes to write on an index card the drills you will be running can help avoid chaos once practice begins.

GIVE EVERY PLAYER PLENTY OF OPPORTUNITIES

Coaching youth sports, especially for younger kids, is challenging, particularly in simply getting every child enough playing time at a wide range of positions. Parents so focus on their own kids during games that they will know if their child is not getting enough minutes or is being pigeonholed into right field or back on defense. At some point when players get older, they gravitate into the roles they are best at—but that shouldn’t occur at age 6. Strive to get younger players an equal amount of playing time during games (you can even enlist a parent to help you keep track). Switch them around positions; even a few minutes spent at goalkeeper is better than nothing, and can go a long way keeping the young athletes, and their parents, happy.

What is the unhappiest a parent has been with your coaching, and how did you resolve the situation?

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