Parents can be the greatest allies of a youth basketball coach as long as a little time, effort, and planning are spent to incorporate them into the program. Just like you teach your team to prepare for adversity, you should do the same when it comes to parent participation.
Youth basketball attracts a wild variety of kids and parents. Many parents are even-keeled, simply desiring some healthful exercise and sports-related discipline for their children. Others are much more demanding. Of course there are parents who are certain their kid is the next Michael Jordan. In their minds, it’s crucial they second-guess nearly every aspect of your program.
Let's face it, it's nearly impossible to keep every parent happy.
These are three issues even the mildest parents may have with your basketball team:
- Playing time
- Wrong position
- Win-Loss Record
These are all hot-button topics, so having a prepared and measured response to each is helpful to defuse emotional situations. The best course of action is to share your expectations about each before the season’s under way.
Some teams are in training leagues – if you sign up, you are guaranteed to play. If that’s the case, make sure parents understand their child’s court time will be limited by those rules. Your duty, then, is to precisely parse those playing minutes no matter what’s happening on the court.
In competitive leagues, you’ll have to teach parents that talent is only a component of playing time. Team chemistry, player attitude, and player match-ups all play a part. Be firm when explaining this to parents. Listen to their recommendations, but not their threats or demands. If voices are being raised, it’s time to table that discussion. Make sure they understand playing time is your responsibility and firmly explain your stance.
Many parents want what they believe is best for their own kid regardless of what this means for the team as a whole.
New Orleans Pelicans center Anthony Davis had a youth coach that made him a point guard. Why? Because he wasn’t a tall kid. But, that point guard grew to be 6’10” and he’s making his youth coach look brilliant because he’s a center who retained his guard skills. His coach used what Davis had to offer at the time. Let your parents know you will be doing the same.
Help them understand that positions may change as their children’s talents evolve. Your ultimate goal is to have them trust your program. In the paraphrased words of NBA coach Billy Donovan: ‘Systems win! Believe in your system and sell it to the parents!’
Wins and losses are the landmines of youth programs. Even winning can cause problems. For example, parents shouting at referees and opponents when games are close. Also, this can put too much pressure on kids who really are playing to have fun.
Too many losses are another issue. Losses lead to dejected players and parents second-guessing you. Your strategy should be to enlist the parents’ support. Encourage them to share your message of hope with your dejected players when losses pile up. Encourage them to prevent their kids from taking wins for granted. The reality of team sports is that half of all games played are lost. You can turn a potential detractor into an ally when you go past wins and losses and explain the benefits the game has had for their child.
Remind both parents and players of this great quote from legendary high school Coach Morgan Wootten, "You learn more from losing than winning. You learn how to keep going."
As mentioned earlier, it's best to tackle these issues before the season even starts. And while there's no perfect way to keep every parent happy, it's important to be prepared when problems do arise. Best of luck and most importantly, have fun!
Now that you know how to gain respect from parents, learn how to gain it from your players: