The Parent-Coach Communication Divide

In my decades of coaching at the youth/club level and in my decade of being a soccer parent, I have often found myself contemplating THE COMMUNICATION DIVIDE THAT EXISTS BETWEEN PARENTS AND COACHES.

We have all experienced this divide.

Maybe it is the awkward moment of stress we feel when we try and talk to the coach about our child’s performance or even just chit-chat about the game.

Maybe it’s the frustration we feel when we don’t have ample communication from the coach about practice times, or tournament plans or goals for the season – but we don’t want to say anything for worry of being “that parent.”

Maybe it’s the pain we feel when our child is struggling but don’t feel the door is open to us for a discussion.

As Albert Einstein once said,

“The formulation of the problem is often more essential than its solution.”

With that in mind….

5 REASONS FOR THE PARENT-COACH COMMUNICATION DIVIDE 

1. Coaches have little training in dealing with parents.

In all of my coaching education courses and coaching licenses – I do not remember there being any education regarding communication with parents.  I have worked for a handful of clubs over the years, and I have never had any communication from the Director of Coaching for the club about best practices for communicating with parents.

Clubs need to create guidelines their coaches must follow regarding communication with parents. Clubs must incorporate training in communicating with parents to their coaching education programs.

2. Many youth coaches are not parents.

Let me be clear – I can name A LOT of great youth coaches who do not have children.   It’s not the coaching I am talking about here. It’s the COMMUNICATION DIVIDE between parents and coaches. When a coach is a parent there is empathy. The coach can understand with more clarity how difficult it can be to for a parent to watch their child learn things the hard way and can relate to a parent’s stress about their child’s well-being. I’ve always said I’m a much different coach now that I am a parent; maybe it has something to do with the empathy factor.

This empathy – between the parent and coach – can go a long way in bridging THE DIVIDE. If coaches are not parents, they must try even harder to understand how a parent feels.

3. There is some confusion regarding the dynamic of the relationship between the coach/parent.  Is it employee/employer or employee/customer or teacher/parent?

As parents, it can be easy to fall into the trap of employer/employee – where we feel we are paying the salary of the coach so we should be entitled to communicating to them as if we are the employer – WRONG. It can also be easy to fall into the trap of feeling like the coach is an employee of the club and you are the customer and deserve certain treatment – ALSO WRONG. I think the best way to model a relationship with a coach is that of teacher/parent.

Our expectations should be similar to how we would expect a teacher/parent relationship to feel. We should assume that we will be communicated with regularly, will be alerted to any issues we should be aware of, and for the teacher/coach to treat our children and handle themselves professionally.

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4.  There is not enough regular and systematic evaluation of players that exists in the youth game or opportunities for coaches and parents to openly talk.

There’s a reason why our children bring home interim reports and regular report cards during the year. There is a reason why “Back to School Night” exists and there is a reason why parents are given regular options to sign up for parent conferences.I’ve often heard coaches say they don’t want to talk to parents – they want to talk to the kids and have them be responsible for their personal development. I get this on some level – but coaches need to realize that communication with our teenagers can be challenging and that as parents, we recognize that our children’s perspective to a situation may not be the complete story.

I know, coaches are busy! But it would go a long way if a coach had a 5 minute discussion with parents/players on regular intervals through the year. Yes, for 18 players – that means 1.5 hours of 5 minute talks for coaches. But it would be worth it.   The kids can play “pick up” for a practice or join in with another team and parents can sign up for 5 minute discussions.

5. CRAZY SPORTS PARENTS

This, I believe, is the number one reason the COMMUNICATION DIVIDE between parents and coaches exists. These CRAZY SPORTS PARENTS have ruined it for us! We non-crazies feel like our backs are sometimes against the wall as we certainly don’t want to be lumped into the pile with all the CSPs! This limits our communication options and, unfortunately, sometimes renders us silent. Coaches have been “traumatized” (I am exaggerating, yes) by CSPs over the years and many have reacted by limiting communication with parents.

Club-wide communication guidelines for parents and coaches is the first step to creating a bridge and eliminating the Communication Divide between Parents and Coaches.

Let’s keep our eye on what we’ve set out to do. The big picture here is to provide our soccer players with a beneficial life-experience. Parents and coaches must communicate more effectively in order for the players’ experience to unfold most effectively.

Bottom line – the communication divide that exists between parents and coaches can be bridged.  When it is, the game – and experience for everyone – will improve.


About the Author Skye Eddy Bruce

Founder, SoccerParenting.com Skye is a former All-American goalkeeper, professional player and collegiate coach. She holds her USSF “B” License and USSF National Goalkeeper License and is an active youth coach, soccer parent and coach educator.

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