6 Ways for Parents to Give Coaches Great Feedback
Recently, I wrote an article titled, “The Conversations I WANT to Have with Parents”, in which I suggested that coaches should encourage healthy and hard conversations with parents. At the end of that article, I suggested the following to coaches:
“Set some boundaries with the parents to empower them to have beneficial conversations with you. Giving hard feedback is difficult, but receiving it is just as difficult. You can help guide and educate them about healthy communication and feedback, but only after you have empowered them to give you feedback. Share the principles you use to guide feedback to players and people in your life so that you are calling them up—not out.”
Giving a coach feedback is so challenging for sports parents, especially when it is unsolicited. Because you are taking the time to read this article and be intentional, I am going to assume you are a “good parent”! I know so many “good” parents who struggle, because they are trying to be respectful and not be “that parent”. But they still feel compelled to speak up or let the coach know of something that is going on with their child.
Regardless of whether your child’s coach has asked for feedback, and whether they have encouraged communication, these 6 principles can help you out:
1.Build a relationship with the Person, Not the coach.
Look for ways to get to know the coach, their family, and what they are like outside of sports. Coaches will be more open to communicating if you have a relationship with them as people—not just a relationship based on what they can do for your child.
Examples:(These may sound silly and simple, but you would be amazed at how few parents ask these questions!)
- “How’s life going?”
- “How’s your family doing?”
2. Be Vulnerable
A fantastic way to connect is to start the conversation by admitting a personal struggle you are experiencing with parenting. We all have them! For every bad coaching moment that they have, we have probably had 100 bad parenting moments!
- “My son and I have not been getting along lately…”
- “My daughter gets her temper from me…”
Acknowledge your responsibility in raising your children. As the parent, you have been the biggest influence on the environment your child has grown up in.
- “I didn’t do an excellent job early on, but I am really working with my son to say “thank you” more often…”
- “We really haven’t done the best job of teaching my daughter to communicate…”
4. Use Notifications
Please forget about the “positive-negative-positive” sandwich; it’s bullsh*t and we all know it. Instead, most of your feedback should be spent sharing observations—factual statements. Coaches need more support and a lot less judgment.
- “I just want to make you aware that for the last few weeks, my son has come home every day saying he hates the football team and wants to quit.”
- “At the last game, when you yelled and called my daughter lazy in front of her teammates, I noticed her holding back tears and she was less motivated for the rest of the game.”
Remember to resist the urge to share your thoughts beyond these observations!
5. Magical Feedback
Researchers from some Ivy League schools call it “magical” because it’s so highly effective. This type of feedback has a “script”. Make sure to reserve this technique for the really, really hard feedback—when things are consistently bad and issues are growing.
- Connect:“I’m giving you this feedback because I want the team to be successful.”
- Emphasize Belonging:“Your success and growth are vital; the team is depending on you.”
- Recognize Standards:“I have certain expectations for my child’s coaches and I believe you can meet them.”
I am repeating this point for extra emphasis: Don’t overuse this technique, especially if the coach hasn’t asked for feedback.
6. Offer Support
Instead of being critical, be open to feedback and suggestions that will help your child, the team culture, or even the coach.
- “My son isn’t enjoying soccer anymore. As a parent, what can I do to help him enjoy it again?”
- “I understand coaching is a hard and thankless job. What can I do to help you and the program?”
What’s Most Important
Coaches can have a significant impact on the development of young people. But as a parent to some young children, I have come to realize that a coach’s influence is little compared to the parents’ influence. The coach is just an extension of our responsibility at home: Raising good people! So, we need to focus most of our energy on our responsibility and then we will be in a better position to help the coaches.
My consulting services and mentorship programs are customized to fit your athletic department, club, or team’s unique needs. I work with administrators, coaches, athletes, and parents to create a culture that develops leadership and character.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.