Before the start of every season, head coaches in most sports set up a parents meeting to help educate the new, and returning, parents on things like the off season schedule, the expectations of the program, playing time, and a variety of other topics.
How many times have you said, or heard a fellow coach utter the phrase, "deal with parents," either regarding the parent meeting or as other issues arise?
Well Nate Sanderson, the head girl's basketball coach at Springville HS (IA) spend one off season thinking a lot about that phrase, "deal with the parents," and came to realize that the phrase itself carried a negative connotation, noting that "generally speaking, we never have to 'deal with' things'" that we actually like doing.
Sanderson brought up an interesting point in an article on Breakthrough Basketball.
"Rooted in fear of conflict and confrontation, we negotiate parent interactions like tiptoeing through a mine field hoping to spend as little time as possible desperately trying to avoid an explosion. At the end of the day, we signed up to coach a sport, not to deal with parents."
"In thinking about this, I began to wonder how much this approach to the parent-coach dynamic prevented me from forming positive, constructive relationships with the people who influence our players as much as anyone. I would never walk into a practice thinking, 'Today I have to deal with these players again.' Rather, we strive to appreciate, love, and encourage our players every day. That's our focus going into every practice. What if we approached the parents the same way?"
So Sanderson started approaching the coach-parent relationship with a completely different mindset. He started inviting parents to participate in their culture, and had parents fill out a note card at their annual meeting about what they wanted their experience to look like accompanied by a few thought provoking questions that really helped to open his eyes to the parents perspective.
The fresh, new approach surely won't prevent all issues from coming up, but Sanderson's hope is that the mutually trusting relationship that is being molded will give them a foundation to weather disagreements.