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Survey shows -- surprise -- parents are headache for coaches

May 15, 2012 - By Craig Blumenshine, Staff Writer

If you were a high school coach or athletic director, how would you respond to the following questions?

What is your greatest concern about dealing with parents?

What do you think parents are most concerned about?

What makes a parent a "difficult" parent?

What should parents do to support you?

Almost 2,800 coaches and athletic directors responded to a recent survey in cooperation with the National High School Coaches Association that considered those questions and more.

It is probably no surprise, but the survey revealed that one of the top concerns of high school coaches and administrators is over involvement by parents.

Why is that?

A former coach and friend of mine made an interesting observation to me years ago.

Get the kids on the team together, he said, and let them figure out the starting lineup.

The sport doesn't matter. Let the kids figure out the starting five in basketball, or the starting defense in football, or the baseball lineup card.

Give that task to the kids, he said, and they'll agree with the coaches almost every time.

Let's return to that survey for just a moment.

Another question asked coaches what made the most difficult parents. Athlete "wanabees" were identified by 55 percent of the respondents.

Forty-year old geezers living vicariously through their kids is a concern that coaches and administrators worry about.

Really?

Now, back to our line-up card exercise. If the kids generally agree with the coaches, what is it that parents aren't understanding when they come at coaches with their number-one complaint -- playing time? Where is the disconnect?

The answer should be obvious to you. The disconnect isn't always in the relationship between parents and coaches, or between coaches and kids. The problem may center on parents and kids and how they communicate with each other relative to their school sports and activities.

Here is what coaches say when asked what parents should do to support them. "Over 70 percent indicated keeping them informed of personal difficulties their child was having at home. This was followed by 63 percent asking parents not to use social media or to gossip about the team or the coach's expertise, and 41 percent requesting that parents not contradict the coach's technical advice given to their child. Athletic directors responses were similar but with different percentages.

Almost 73 percent ranked not using social media or gossip about the team as the most important followed by 63 percent indicating keeping them informed of personal difficulties their child was having at home. Not questioning the coach's judgment was reported by 57 percent of athletic directors," the survey said.

Important advice, for sure. But the directives don't include advice for the most important relationship of all, that between parents and their children.

Use the dinner table, parents. Make the connection to your kids to understand where they are and what is happening in their activities. Help them understand what it means to be a great teammate. Tell them that they shouldn't feel entitled and that, as in the other parts of life, there is work to be done in order to succeed. Let them know that it is wrong to think that they should have something if their behavior does not warrant it.

Have them honestly fill out a lineup card with you.

You may be surprised.

Have a great sports week. Go Big Red!

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