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Limiting Parental Problems

One of the best ways to prevent conflicts between parents and coaches is to develop a proactive plan on two levels: 1) getting your parents involved with the teams on which their athletes participate 2) having a plan in place for when a problem occurs, in which both the coach and athletic director are involved.


An article from a basketball coach on discusses a novel way to engage parents of athletes. The coach hands out a form to the parents at a pre-season meeting and asks them to answer the following questions:

• Write at least one reasonable, measurable goal you have for your child this season.

• Write at least one reasonable, measurable goal you have for the team this season.

What do you want your athlete's experience to be like if they can't accomplish any of the goals they wrote in the first two?

• What do you want your experience to be like as a sports parent?

• What can you do to help create that experience for other parents?

• What can the coaches do to help facilitate that experience?

The coach requires that the coaches put their name on the sheet before handing it back. This way, If the coach finds something divisive, problematic or unrealistic on a parent's forms, the coach has the opprotunity to talk to the parent in a non-threatening way before a problem could occur.

An article on provides a strong suggestion—offer a workshop or series of workshops specifically for parents. The article suggests offering instruction in areas such as proper nutrition, simple exercises that their athlete can routinely do reinforce fundamental related to the sport, and “psychological drills” that can be done with the athlete at home.

Rules in Place if a Parental Problem Occurs

An article on emphasizes that if a parent has a problem with the coach, it's crtical that the coach do the following:

• Discuss issues as an adult

• Conduct open two-way communications with parents

• Be open-minded to other’s views

• Be fair and honest with the parents

Why must athletic directors make sure the coaches deal with the matter immediately? The Sport Journal article explains that the longer the conflict remains unsettled, the greater the placed pressure on the student-athlete; it can “potentially reduce sport enjoyment and decrease personal growth.”

The article provides this step-by-step process that an athletic director can provide their coaches for handling this conflict: “First the coach should calmly remind the parent of their rules of conduct [that have been established and communicated to the parents]. Next, the coach should instruct the parent to contact them in the morning (or after 24 hours) concerning the situation (via email or phone) to set up an appointment. This is an important procedure to follow because sometimes parents will sleep on the issue at hand and realize a meeting is not necessary. If the parent still believes a meeting is required, a meeting time should be set up in a timely manner and be scheduled at a time which is convenient for both parties.”

If a parent-coach meeting needs to take palce, the athletic director should be involved. The SportJournal article advices that the AD can work with the coach to “write down constructive points he/she wants to convey to the parent.” The coach should also consider having the AD present in the meeting for support and for clarification of the events of the meeting.

“The coach must allow the parent to speak while they listen attentively and take notes,” the article states. After the parent has finished voicing his/her concerns the coach should address the issues presented in an honest, up-front manner being sure to remain professional at all times.”

If the coach and the parent cannot come to an understanding then the AD should meet with the parent. The article recommends that no matter the outcome of the conflect, the coach should properly thank the parent for their willingness to speak openly on this topic.

"Wise coaches will take the time to listen," said Dallas Lintner, CMAA, athletic director/assistant principal of Owosso High School in Michigan, said in an article on the NFHS website. "Many times, disruptive parents want to vent their frustrations or influence decision-making. I also encourage coaches to reassure disruptive parents that their emotions are normal when they advocate for their child. Empathy always helps and the message that we are always on the same side has to be delivered. Sometimes we can disagree on individual points of view, and that is OK.

"When interactions become non-productive with misguided parents, or they become vulgar or personal, our coaches understand that they are encouraged to politely suspend any confrontation and refer the matter to me," Lintner continued. "There have been times where I have mediated conflicts with parents and coaches. When those discussions come to an impasse, I have had to end those sessions. It is rare that this occurs, but it has been necessary."


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