October 19, 2018 • Athletic AdministrationCoaching

Understanding the role of parents in youth sports

» The following is an excerpt from “#HeySportsParents!: An Essential Guide for any Parent with a Child in Sports” by Sharkie Zartman and Dr. Robert Weil. It offers tips and guidance for parents in youth sports who want to make their experience as memorable and positive as it can be.

What is your role as a parent when it comes to youth sports?

#HeySportsParents! parents in youth sports coverThis is a tough question to answer because it really does depend on the coach and the program. But I can give you a little perspective by having you answer this question: If you were coaching a youth team, what kind of parents would you appreci­ate? What would you want them to do to help the team? And more important­ly, what would you NOT want them to do?

Another question is to step back in time and imagine that you are the kid that is playing the sport. What would you want your parents to do to help the team, and again, more importantly, what would you NOT want them to do?

When my husband and I coached club volleyball, we had three simple rules for the parents.

  1. Cheer for your kid and good plays from both teams.
  2. Get your kids to the games and practices on time.
  3. Let us do the coaching.

We also let them bring food to the tournaments, and that worked out well since they were all willing to bring healthy food and drinks for the team to share. They even brought a portable table with a tablecloth. Now that was classy!

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We did have some problems at times with parents asking about why some athletes played certain positions and some played more than others, but we al­ways were honest about the athletes’ abilities and told the parents if they weren’t happy with the situation, they were free to leave the club at the end of the season.

We did not give the parents any administrative duties and instead tried to make their contributions simple and easy to implement. It seemed to work for us as coaches, and our athletes won four national titles.

Remember that there are a lot of different programs and coaches, so what worked for us might not work for others. Maybe a coach or a program would appreciate having a parent do some of the administrative work, or be an assis­tant coach, or volunteer to referee a game if needed. But as I mentioned be­fore, each situation is different, and if you sign your child up for a youth sport, you will have to make sure you understand and abide by the program and coaches’ guidelines for your child’s sake. Be sure to ask the coach what his or her expec­tations are for the parents. Don’t wait until there is a problem.

One thing is for sure. Never give your child’s coach unsolicited advice. I don’t care how much you know about the sport or how little the coach knows. Just ZIP it! If the coach needs your advice, he or she will ask for it.

So your roles and responsibilities as a parent are quite minimal when it comes to the games. However, as a parent, there is a lot you can do to help make playing a sport a positive experience. That happens both at home and on the ride home after a game …

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