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This month, thousands of coaches and parents will be meeting for registration and for the all-important first team meeting. These meetings between coaches and parents are an important tool in creating a positive and rewarding sports environment for our kids. As you walk into these meetings this month, consider taking a Responsible Sports approach:
- Coaches give countless hours to the team – not only practices and games, but also preparation and plenty of administrative tasks. And many of them don't get paid for their efforts. For most, this isn't their full time job – it's something they choose to volunteer their time to support. Try to remember and recognize this commitment when something goes awry this season.
- Coaches are people too and need their emotional tank filled too! If you're familiar with Responsible Sports, you know the concept of "Filling An Emotional Tank"—like a gas tank, people have emotional tanks that need to be filled to move forward. Filling a coach's emotional tank means remembering to provide truthful and specific praise as well as constructive (not destructive) criticism.
- Speaking of constructive criticism…There will be times where you may disagree with the coach. But its important to remember not to put your child in the middle. Divided loyalties hinder people. Conversely, when parents support a coach, it is easier for children to put forth maximum effort. If you think your child's coach is mishandling a situation, do not tell your child. Just take it up with the coach.
- Taking it up with the coach is sometimes a necessary step. But before you approach the coach, consider whether or not the situation allows for a perfect teaching moment for your child. Consider empowering your child to speak to the coach themselves. Mustering the courage to talk to the coach can be a great life lesson. Your children may gain important experiences about dealing with people above them in the power structure, at school or in future jobs, by talking with the coach on their own.
- Some situations warrant you approaching the coach. Remember to observe a cooling off period before having these tough conversations. Pick a time and place where only the coach can hear you—not during a game or practice, and not where you might be overheard, which could make the coach more defensive. You may need to write and even rehearse what you want to say until it sounds the way you want. Be prepared to support your assertions with specific examples. Then listen carefully to what the coach says in reply.
- And lastly, as parents we do our best to support and encourage our children at all times. But try to remember not to instruct your child when they are on the playing field. Your child is trying to concentrate amid the chaotic action of a game and do what the coach asks. A parent yelling out instructions hardly ever helps. More often than not, it confuses the child, adds pressure and goes against the coaches' instruction, which undermines the player-coach relationship, the player-parent relationship and the parent-coach relationship.
Our partners at Positive Coaching Alliance consistently see in their research: positive parents engaged in a positive manner with positive coaches results in positive outcomes — on and off the field.
For more information on how you can kick off the season on a positive note with coaches and parents, visit the Resource Center on ResponsibleSports.com. Download tip sheets including Honoring the Game Tools, which features a parent meeting agenda, and Responsible Conversation: Parent & Coach Intervention Strategies.
Good luck this season from your friends at Liberty Mutual and Responsible Sports!