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Parents Who Interfere: Was Quitting The Only Way Out For Coach?

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This weekend a father from Michigan sent me an article in the Detroit News about a highly successful high school basketball coach in his daughter's league who had just quit as a result of what the newspaper described as "extreme parental interference."

He wanted to know what I would suggest to the coach, who happened to be a personal friend.

My advice, which I have been sharing with parents in the U.S. and Canada for the past twelve years, is simple, at least in concept: communication and collaboration.  The coaches who don't have problems with parents tend to be great communicators. They let parents know where they stand early, before the season even starts, at a preseason meeting, which all parents are required to attend, and during the season, they make themselves available to parents on a regular basis to answer questions and allow them to voice concerns.

Many coaches have also established a volunteer assistant coach program where they invite some of the more experienced parent coaches to pitch in occasionally. Good coaches know that the time of the passive sports parent has long since passed, and that, in order to get on the same page with parents and players, the coach has to truly listen to what is on the mind of parents, but also to set up rules of the road so that parents know what is and what they can and can't do.   Stop sign

The article doesn't say whether the coach in this instance had held such a pre-season meeting at which he set firm boundaries so that parents knew in advance that the kind of extreme interference that led him to quit would simply not be tolerated.

For all I know, he did, and some of the parents simply ran through all the stop signs he put up.  If that's the case, then the parents who pushed him too far should be ashamed of themselves. 

Of course, I don't know the whole story (indeed, the article doesn't really shed much light on the coach's side of the story), and, as is almost always the case, there are probably two sides to this one, too.  

But what I do know is that the problem of pushy sports parents isn't one that is going away soon, and is undoubtedly getting worse, as the pressure on youth athletes, and their parents, continues to ratchet ever higher. 

Is it any wonder, as MomsTeam contributing expert, Doug Abrahms noted in one of his recent "Heroes" columns, fewer and fewer high school coaches stay in coaching very long these days?  

All a coach can do is set boundaries.  But sometimes, sadly, some parents think they can ignore the rules of the road.  The result: a crash where everyone - coach, players, parents, school and the wider community - ends up getting hurt.

 Questions/Comments? Reach me at delench@momsteam.com