Conversations are constantly happening between the coach and player about the demands of the game, technical adjustments, tactical teaching and more. The majority of conversations do not and should not involve parents. However, when the conversations are about the player’s development, the coach’s expectations, or stressful situations such as playing time or positional choices – involving a parent in the discussion will make the discussion most effective (unless the parent is being a Crazy SportsParent).
Believe me, I understand and appreciate coaches and professors will not be communicating with parents when our children go to college. This future fact (developing them for college) should not be used by youth coaches as a reason for not involving parents in present day discussions. In truth, the fact that college coaches and professors will not talk to parents should be the primary reason youth coaches are diligent in their efforts to develop the communication skills our children will need later in life.
How do we develop those skills in our children?…Through coach and parent collaboration.
Coaches and parents in youth sports must collaborate in developing the listening, processing and remembering skills our children will need to have meaningful conversations with their collegiate coaches, educators and even future employers.
I also understand as the players mature from 12 years old to 17 years old, this policy needs to shift from involving parents in the important conversations to, AT TIMES, NOT INVOLVING PARENTS in the important conversations as our children begin to grasp and even master the necessary communication skills.
There are two primary reasons why involving the parents in discussions is important:
The information delivered from the coach to the player is not always the information taken in from the player and then delivered from the player to the parent.
The information delivered from the coach to the player does not always get delivered, in any form, from the player to the parent. When the information is about stressful issues such as playing time or positional issues, the lack of connection between the coach and parent can lead to Crazy Sports Parent behavior.
This MIS-INFORMATION and NON-INFORMATION is not intentional on the part of our children – it is because they lack the maturity and listening skills and processing skills and remembering skills to bring the information home, or even understand it themselves, in it’s intended form. With this in mind, collaboration between the coach and parent will best teach our children these important skills.
Here’s a perfect example from a coaching situation I had:
"I was wrapping up a U.S. Soccer Training Center session and having a conversation with a young goalkeeper. My intention: to give her some sound and helpful advice about how she could improve the psychological side of her game. My conversation with her, I will admit, was not as thought out as usual and I failed to provide her with some solid examples of what I was explaining about her performances. That being said, I felt as though I got the point across and when we parted ways I was positive she understood what I was talking about in relation to her game.
Turns out, I was completely wrong. Good thing her club coach reached out to me about the conversation because it was only due to my conversation with him I realized the player had misunderstood what I was expressing to her and had walked away from our conversation confused and even upset. There I was thinking I was making some excellent coaching points to her – and there she was confused and unclear about what I was explaining to her. I would imagine if she relayed the conversation to her parents they way she perceived it, they would have been upset as well."
If our intention is to support our children/players in developing listening, processing and remembering skills, in advocating for themselves and being mature and autonomous, what can we do?
5 COMMUNICATION COLLABORATION GUIDELINES FOR COACHES AND PARENTS:
- Finish a conversation with a young player with a check for understanding: “What are your takeaways from our conversation?” Clarify the player understands what you have explained.
- Follow up an important conversation you have with a player with a re-cap email to the player and copy the parent, so there is clarity about what was discussed. This email would be a great way to ensure there was no misinformation or non-information in the translation of the conversation from the player to the parent.
- Encourage parents to be a bystander to some conversations you have with the player and have them remain a bystander.
- Encourage parents to reach out to you if there is any confusion on the part of their child. Keep the door open and remember the objective of the parents is the same as yours – teaching the players/children.
- This not-talking-to-parent policy is, sadly, often the result of a coach’s experience with Crazy Soccer Parents. Please assume the best of us parents!!! We are all in this together.
- If your child feels the need to talk to the coach and initiates the conversation, it’s okay to be a bystander to the conversation AS LONG AS YOU REMAIN a bystander.
- When being a bystander to the conversation think of your role as mediator. Your job as a bystander is to be sure your child and the coach understand each other, not to direct the conversation or to challenge the coach on what they are saying.
- Even if your child is positive about what the coach said as they are relaying a conversation to you, if it seems a bit out of character for the coach or if what your child is saying does not necessarily make sense, realize there is possibly some misinformation happening. It’s okay to reach out to the coach and say – “This is what my child took away from your conversation….If this is not what you intended to tell them – could you please talk with them again so they have clarity?”
- Teach your child the importance of asking questions if they are not extremely clear about what the coach is saying to them. They can simply ask the coach to repeat what they said or ask the coach to give them an example so they can better understand what the coach is saying.
- Don’t make assumptions about the coach based completely on what you hear from your child or even other parents.
The opportunity to learn important life skills in communication from the real-life situations presented through sports is one of the gifts of youth sports. Like any skill – listening, processing and remembering takes time to develop.
A key step to developing these listening, processing and remembering skills: Parent and Coach Communication Collaboration.