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Mandatory Parent Training: The Only Way to Improve the Youth Sports Sidelines

Why Training Is Necessary

When parent training is voluntary, the only people who attend are those who come to every meeting and event, and usually are well behaved. In other words, training for them is really just preaching to the choir. The parents who the need the training the most are not there.

Even making it mandatory isn't enough, unless it has consequences. In El Paso, we provided parents with a very powerful incentive: If the parent did not complete the training before the season began, his or her son or daughter could not play. Making training mandatory thus requires those most in need of training to attend or see his or her child sent to the sidelines. The ones who don't need it as much still learn something; besides, they would probably come voluntarily.

Accept No Excuses

Ideally, both parents should attend training. But the reality of 21st Century America is that not all parents can, for a variety of reasons, such as job or custody issues. There is no good reason, however, why at least one parent or legal guardian cannot attend.

Each family decides how it will comply. The program should be structured in such a way that no family can have an excuse for not attending. To eliminate excuses, the program should feature:

  • Multiple training times, including both weekdays and weekends;

  • Language options to allow all parents to understand the program, not just those for whom English is their primary language. Assistance to the hearing impaired should also be provided; and

  • Childcare. Hopefully not just babysitting but action oriented for young players

The administrator should have the discretion to accept any reasonable excuse. But he or she should not let a parent off the hook simply because attendance presents obstacles. Likewise, parents should be willing to work hard to overcome any obstacle in order for the child to participate.

Knowledge Makes Better Sports Parents

A major factor contributing to sideline misbehavior by parents is ignorance of both rules governing the sport their child is playing and the expectations of the league or club for parental behavior.

What many parents fail to realize is that the rules that apply in the youth version of many sports are often very different than those that govern adult or professional sports; rule changes that simplify the game for young players to build confidence and breed success while building skills. Unfortunately, a parent who has failed to make the effort to understand the youth rules may end up spending lots of time on the sideline yelling at refs about rules and procedures that don't even apply!

Thus, a significant portion of mandatory parent training should be devoted to educating parents about the rules of the game, focusing on the ways in which the youth game is different from the high school, college or professional version.