By Tim Bradbury
Director of Coaching, Eastern New York Youth Soccer

I passionately believe that for any youth player to fulfill their potential as person and a player while developing a lifelong love for sport that the trinity of coach, player and parent must work in harmony.

One of the greatest tragedies in youth sports is that this trinity rarely if ever seems to work as a team. The reasons for this lack of cooperation seem to be centered around the following:

1. Time and planning. Nurturing a solid foundation with a set of parents takes time and effort and for most this is a challenge.

2. Caring and attention to detail. Coaches must recognize the importance of the parents and acknowledge that they have power in the arena.

3. Knowledge, confidence and competence. It is challenging to present to a group of parents who all have visions of their child’s abilities, the importance of winning and what good coaching looks like and sounds like.

4. Club culture. Most clubs do nothing at all to create a transformational club culture where families are treated as friends and parent-coach relationships are something that are insisted upon and valued.

5. Clubs not being clubs. Most clubs do not have a set of core values, mission statement or philosophies that run throughout the club. Each team and age group act independently. In this environment, healthy traditions are ridiculously hard to build.

I do not believe that any of the above are good reasons why coaches should not or do not develop healthy relationships with all the parents on the teams they coach. I urge all coaches to consider the following plan:

1. Initial team meeting before a ball rolls. Discuss team goals, teaching philosophy, core values that the team has created and most importantly, stress the details of the role the parents are needed to fill. Positive amplifiers of team culture and trusted communicators. Have parents create a list of expected parent behaviors.

2. Schedule of parent interactions and meetings throughout the season.

3. Guidelines for dealing with issues. You know that issues will arise and as every parent is and should be an advocate for their child, passionate behavior should be expected. The stronger the foundation you have built, the easier it will be deal with these road bumps. Have guidelines. As one example, no parent can ever talk about any kid other than their own. Have a system and timeline so that all know how road bumps are to be dealt with.

4. Best practices and the car ride home. Supply parents with a list of best practices for certain key situations – sideline behavior at games and the car ride home after games being two definite areas.

5. Endeavor prior to each game to have a brief parent meeting to explain goals for the game and a note on how training went last week.