With fifteen or more sets of parents on one team, it is likely that you will be dealing with a wide range of personalities. It is also likely that the makeup of these personalities will vary by the level of the team that you are coaching. Although it is dangerous and probably unfair to group parents by their type, there is a reason that stereotypes exist, and it can help us to show some of the opportunities and challenges that you will face as a coach. Two broad groups can be seen on all teams, although their balance appears to change by team level: –
- We tend to find that when coaching top level teams you inherit parents who display a stronger, more vocal presence at meetings, through emails, and on the sidelines. This probably makes sense as in many cases they will are the driving force behind their child’s success, taking them to the extra practices, working with them at home, and fighting to get them to their goals. Often these parents will have had some former playing experience or other participation in soccer of their own. All of which can add to the pressure on you as their coach. These are the parents who want the absolute best situation in soccer for their child, so will be most open to shopping around and being recruited by other clubs.
- On the lower level teams, the parents may not see soccer as the main focus in the child’s life, but one of many activities they take part in. They might never have played the game or really care about the subtle intricacies of it, beyond making sure that their child is learning and having a good time. For them, the biggest factor could be whether their child likes the other players on the team. If they do, their commitment level and long term attachment to your team can be high. On the other hand, when it comes to team meetings, fundraising or other extra commitments, it can be difficult to get these parents to put in the same level of enthusiasm that the committed type will put in.
When you show up at the first meeting, you will immediately be able to spot some of the parents from the first group as they tend to try to monopolize the group’s talking and decision-making. The ones who stay quiet can be more difficult. Is it that they are not bothered? Are they shy about public speaking? Have they got other more important things on their mind? Are they waiting to see what the rest of the parents are like before their show their own cards?! Finding out the answers will take more time and individual meetings.
Another reality that you are likely to face is that the time you spend talking to each set of parents will not be equal. In fact, you will probably spend more time working with one or two of the parents than with the rest of the team combined. This is often a consequence of the specific parent’s personality – that they need an open channel of communication with you to continually discuss the concerns that they have. Generally our advice is to keep this open and deal with the problems as they arise as if you ignore them they are likely to develop into bigger issues. There are limits though. When it gets to the point that the rest of the team are suffering because of the time and effort you are putting into the minority, you need to look at ways to shift the balance to make it fair on the others, and on you.
Finally, you must consider the impact of your own personality on the parents. If you are significantly younger than the average age of the parents, how will this affect their relationship with you? Are you a parent yourself? Do you have a child playing on this very team? In our experience, parents tend to find it easier to interact with the coaches who have a similar age and situation to them. Therefore if you are single and fresh out of college, you might have larger initial barriers to climb to start your relationship with some of the parents. In the longer term though, it can hurt to be in the same place as the parents. Do you go out to dinner with them or to other social functions or do you try to remain equal and/or distant from all of them? Being a parent of a player on the team and the coach can lead to several of these issues conflicting for you.
We have come up with a list of general solutions you can try that can help to develop, or improve the relationship you have with the parents on your team. Click here to read them.