June 18, 2018 • Athletic AdministrationCoachingTop Story

2018 Coaches Report: Relationships with parents

For seven years, Coach & Athletic Director has published a report examining high school sports through the eyes of the athletic director. The success of our annual State of the Industry survey, and the insight it has provided athletic administrators nationwide, encouraged us to begin the same analysis with sport coaches.

Our inaugural Coaches Report explores a handful of the biggest issues in team sports — coach-parent relationships, sport specialization, club and travel leagues, administrative support. As with our athletic director survey, our goal is to identify the greatest challenges and opportunities in the coaching profession. This helps shape Coach & Athletic Director’s content and provides valuable insight for coaches everywhere.

This year’s survey of 488 coaches confirmed some suspicions and offered a few surprises. Nearly all coaches oppose single-sport participation, and most of them openly encourage their athletes to take up other sports. And while combative parents continue to be a headache for coaches everywhere, an overwhelming majority said they have a healthy relationship with moms and dads.

Here’s some insight on how coaches grade their relationships with parents of their players.

Relationships with parents

One of the oldest questions in interscholastic sports is, “How do I develop positive relationships with the parents of my players?” Coaches have discovered that it’s impossible to eliminate all issues, but there are a number of strategies they can use to minimize confrontations.  

We receive hundreds of emails and calls asking for tips to combat problematic parents, but a surprising 75 percent of coaches in our survey characterized their relationship with parents as “good.” A common perception among coaches is that most parents are reasonable and understanding, but it can be the few bad apples that give the group a poor image.

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We asked coaches to describe a specific confrontation they’ve had with a parent. Many said they were tracked down by a parent after a game to talk about playing time or their child’s role on the team. A couple said a parent had the nerve to approach them during a game.

“On the way to the locker room at halftime, I was confronted by a man I didn’t know who asked if I was going to play his son,” one coach wrote. “I responded that I don’t plan out playing time, so I didn’t know.

“In the fourth quarter, I noticed him leaving behind the bench — his son still hadn’t been in the game. He came around in front of the bench and said, ‘You better play my son, or else you’ll have me to deal with.’ Some parents and other coaches quickly came to my aid to allow me to finish coaching the game.”

Nearly 63 percent of coaches said that playing time is the greatest cause of parents’ rage, followed be 34 percent who blamed a player’s role within the program.  

Coaches are more than capable of handling these issues within their respective teams, but when a parent doesn’t get their way, they sometimes go higher up the chain of command. We asked coaches whether they had the support of their superiors in situations like these. Nearly 87 percent said “yes,” but some said the athletic director or principal gives the parents what they want.

“(At my school), the athletic director is supportive,” one coach said. “The principal, vice principal and superintendent are not. They run or cave-in with parents.”

“I removed two players from our program for negative attitude, behavior and influence,” said another. “Parents complained to the superintendent, and I was forced to reinstate them.”

More from the 2018 Coaches Report

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