When Will Parents Start Standing Up for Coaches?

J.P. Nerbun
In Learn
By J.P. Nerbun | February 3, 2019

When Will Parents Start Standing Up for Coaches?

A coach in my mentorship program sent me this letter, and I am not going to lie—I teared up. The letter was addressed and sent to his athletic director—not even the coach himself. The coach has faced strong vocal opposition by a group of the parents in the program this season, and it’s been a daily struggle for this man and his family.

Still, through it all, he stayed committed to being a transformational coach—one who values the person over the player and tries to build character, not just athletic skills. So, finally, it felt like he was getting some support and acknowledgment for his efforts.

I’ve learned two important lessons from this letter. One for parents, and one for coaches:

1. We Need Parents to Start Standing Up for Coaches

I know this claim will irritate some people, but coaches are not just being criticized; they are being bullied. When a coach enters the profession, they have to be ready to face criticism; it comes with the job.

But, consider the spiteful personal attacks on social media and through email and text messages, as well as the attempts to rally others to join forces against a coach. These actions are not criticism; it’s bullying.

Supportive parents are afraid to stand up and openly support coaches, because they are afraid of how they will be perceived by others for doing so.

Sports need more positive and supportive parents to be vocal supporters of the coach and the team, both in the stands and on social media.

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2. Coaches Need to Focus on the Positive Parents

At the start of the season, I hosted a workshop for the parents of this coach’s team that I do for many of the coaches I support around the country.

One of the first things I do is ask parents these two questions:

  1. Why do you want your son to play basketball?
  2. What’s your biggest concern for the next stage of his life?

Typically, 90% of parents greatly appreciate the workshop, but usually, there are a couple of parents who seem resentful about being asked to discuss how they might better support their child during the season.

This team’s parents weren’t any different.

18 of the cards were great, as usual. Answers to both questions all shared a similar theme: They wanted their kids to have fun and become better people. Their greatest concerns were academics and peer pressure. Still, two of the cards I received were discouraging. These two parents openly rejected the opportunity for sports to teach valuable life lessons and help them grow as people.

90% of those parents were behind the coach and his mission, but because 10% were negative thinkers, the coach and I focused the majority of our energy on them! This resulted in feeling like I had missed the mark in my workshop, and the coach was left feeling unsupported!

The majority of parents do the majority of things right. But, as coaches, we focus the majority of our attention on the minority of parents who do a few things wrong.

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A Lesson for Coaches and Parents

  1. Speak Up. As parents, lets speak up and try to be a positive, supportive voice. Focus on the things your child’s coach is doing right.
  2. Focus on the Majority. As coaches, let’s focus on the majority of parents whose support is vital to the team. We can’t forget that without these parents, we would have nobody to help with transportation, paying fees, feeding and clothing our athletes, and cheering them on!


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