There are so many coaches out there with dreams of one day ascending to the role of head coach. Whether it’s high school or college, every aspiring head coach needs to have a plan for how they plan to deal with the different types of parents that you are bound to encounter at some point in your career.
Just as players help you win and lose games, the same can be said about parents at many programs. As a head coach you’re going to come in contact with some parents that will change your life, and the lives of many of your players and make your job very enjoyable. But you’re also going to have to deal with some that make your job, and your life, difficult. You need to have a plan for both.
Two years into my first head coaching job, and with nearly a decade of being able to interact with head coaches around the country in my role with FootballScoop, I’ve put together a list of eleven different types of parents that you’re likely to encounter as a head coach, and that you’d be smart to have a plan for.
1 – The “I need to talk to you right now” group
This group can pop up in a number of different ways, and for a variety of different reasons. It could be a Saturday morning phone call after a game, or immediately after a blowout win, or a heartbreaking loss. It could be to talk about their kid’s playing time, your play calling or decision making ability, what their kid should be eating, or anything in between. It would be smart of you to quickly learn which parents you can have mature, adult conversations with, and which ones it would be better to schedule a time to meet with, while inviting your athletic director to be a part of that conversation as well in some cases.
2 – The Different Standards
One of the harder things to do as a new head coach taking over a program is to ensure that everyone in the program is being held to the same set of standards and expectations. At the high school level, where kids have a summer window to work jobs and earn money for themselves (and in some cases needed for their families), it can be difficult. Some parents are going to believe that because their kids choose to / have to work over the summer, that their child have a valid excuse to miss things like summer workouts and other team activities and that showing up for the first day of official practice with a starting role is the only real requirement of them to be a part of the team you’re trying to build.
Depending on where you coach, some kids may have an absolutely legitimate claim to having to work long hours in the summer months to help their family pay bills or run a family business or farm. You’re going to want to not only have a clearly developed plan for how to handle those types of situations, but also how to clearly communicate that plan and those expectations.
3 – Mr. and Mrs. Stats are Everything
Whether it’s because they want their kid’s name in the paper, or because they think it will lead to scholarship offers or attention from college football programs, there’s a small sector of parents out there that seem to think that stats are everything. They’ll let you know when their son’s tackle count wasn’t what they thought it was from Friday night, and precisely how much that kind of stuff can matter when it comes time for their kid to be considered for post season honors like all conference and all area and beyond.
4 – The Refuse to Buy-ins
This is one of the hardest groups of parents to have a plan for because no matter what you do, or how much time and effort you put in, it’s simply not going to be good enough for them. It could be because they have a strong allegiance to the former coach and his staff and want to resist change, or could be that they’re just negative by nature, or anything in between.
5 – The “I’ll help wherever you need me” group
Beyond your coaching staff, it takes a ton of helping hands to help run an efficient and successful football program, and parents willing to volunteer their time (often in exchange for a pass to get into games for free, or for a t-shirt or staff hat) to do things like help with stats, run a camera on game day, or handle your film input can be a monumental difference maker. In particular, these types of humble dads often make great assistant coaches that you can find a role for somewhere in your program.
6 – The “Well we coached them at the youth level and…” group
This is the group of parents that, as their kid(s) was coming up through the youth organization, they volunteered to help coach them and now believe the time spent at that level warrants that their opinion should be valued now that their kid and his friends are playing at the high school level because they won [insert number] games back in the day.
“Advice” from this group can come in the forms of both schemes and how to best utilize the personnel you have – both based on the experiences they had with the group years ago.
7 – The Good Peripherals
These are the folks that where a mutual respect lies. You have a great deal of respect for their roles as parents, and they value your role as their child’s coach. These are the parents that band together behind the scenes to take care of the stuff in your peripheral vision as a head coach so that you can concentrate on what is important with things like team meals, or parents night, or anything else along those lines.
8 – The Bad Peripherals
If the Good Peripherals are the parents that allow you to focus on coaching football and developing young men, then the Bad Peripheral parents are the ones that are so drawn into the minuet details of things that don’t affect the scoreboard that they bring your attention away from what’s important as well.
9 – The Disillusioned Dreamers
Coaching players capable of playing college football is something nearly all of us will be able to do at some point in our careers, but for the majority of us, coaching players with full-ride scholarship potential is exceedingly rare. However, in most cases, the last folks to realize that their kid isn’t a Division I talent are often, for whatever reason, the parents. Managing expectations for this group of parents, and getting them to understand the value in small college football is something that will take a plan of action.
10 – The Private Tutors
Some parents with the means will be able to take their kid to a private quarterback coach, or private offensive line training coach, or enroll him in a program designed for strength and speed training at a private facility. While this isn’t one parent group that every head coach will encounter, it still is worth mentioning because you should have a plan with how you’re going to deal with your player getting a high level of training away from the grind that his fellow teammates are putting in. There’s something to be said about working out around your teammates, but we also can’t always be bullheaded enough to think that we’re the only ones capable of delivering quality instruction in everything.
11 – The Perfect Parents
Nearly every program has a set or two of these parents, and the really special programs have a small handful of these. The Perfect Parents understand the role you play in the lives of those you work with, and are willing to do whatever they can to help make your experience, and in turn their kid’s experience, the best it can possibly be. When you have these types of parents in your program, make sure they are publicly recognized every chance you get so you let others know how appreciate they are, and be sure to thank them privately just as much for what they do for you and your program.