Coach’s should understand how negative behavior from a parent (or parents) can affect their team. It is already difficult for the younger players to stay focused on the game and their coach, but even harder to stay focused if their Mom or Dad is yelling instructions from the bleachers. When players hear their parents yelling comments from the bleachers – their attention is now divided between the parent and the coach. Coach’s should not only “educate” the parents of their players on how they can support the team and help the team win, but also how parents can contribute to the loss of a game (by distracting players that need to stay focused).
Real Life examples of negative parental behavior:
a) At a 10 year old nationals tournament a parent runs out on the court and tackles a referee – and continues to beat the ref in front of players from both teams. A shocking experience for players at any age.
b) At an 11 year old tournament, a parent runs out and cusses out a referee in front of all the players. The referee warns the parents and coach’s that if this occurs again, he will stop the game. Well it happened again, and the referee stopped the game, and gave the win to the opposing team (which was my team). Half the crowd immediately ran onto the court in a crazed frenzy, we huddled the players into a corner of the gym. The players were scared to death to even go back into the gym the next day. This was not a very pleasant experience.
c) A parent of a 10 year old player is screaming and cussing at the referees so loud, the player is crying on the court, the player is taken out of the game to see if she was hurt, but it was found that the player was upset at their Dad for acting like that. An assistant coach went into the stands and asked him to stop (or the player will be benched), he did not stop so the player sat the bench until the Dad got up and left the building. The report was that this parent never brought his daughter back to practice.
These examples of negative behavior should never be tolerated or allowed to continue. It is a shame that young players must experience this type of behavior, especially from their parents or other parents on the team.
What are organizations doing to help remedy parental behavior?
* Most State sports organizations are making parents sign “code of ethics” forms.
* There are more rules in place to remove unruly parents and spectators from games.
* Local sports organizations are also having parents sign mandatory forms to curb parents behavior.
* Many coaches are now educating parents on the subject, and imposing teams rules for this.
Obviously not all the parents will have problems with negative behavior as described above, but just knowing that there are some that do have this problem is very disturbing (especially when it’s affecting our children).
Coach’s and Parents: “Communication is the Key”
a) The Coach’s Expectations: One of the biggest mistakes made by a coach is not communicating their expectations up front – in writing (at the very beginning of the season). Coach’s must let the parents and players know what their expectations are up front (practices, guidelines, playing time, rules, philosophy, etc.). Coach’s should make this information readily available at tryouts, and ensure that all parents get a copy – this way the parents will know what they are getting into before making a commitment to the team.
Check out the enclosed “Sample” Team Memo from a Coach to their team at the beginning of the season.
b) Playing Time: Rec Leagues usually have guidelines about playing time, but competitive leagues usually do not. Make sure that you cover “playing time” in your team memo. My team memo always covers playing time. I will always discuss playing time with a player (coach’s must give feedback to the players) and I also make sure that the parent is present whenever I am having this type of conversation with a player (so the parent knows that I am providing feedback to their child on the subject of playing time). If a parent asks the question “Why is my child not getting playing time” and you answer this question – you are providing feedback to the parent, and not the player. As a coach, I don’t feel that it’s the parents job to tell one of my players what they need to do to get more playing time – this feedback needs to come from the coach. Players want to hear this type of feedback from the coach – not the parent.
Here is a Sample (non-confrontational) question from a parent on playing time: “What specific thing can my son / daughter work on to receive more playing time?” The coach should call the player over to be part of the discussion (but make sure you have an answer for this question because there has to be some reason why the player does not get adequate playing time, right?). Remember, if you tell a player what they need to work on, and they work harder, they need to be rewarded with some additional playing time (if not, you are not sending the right message).
c) Problems / Concerns: Any and all problems and concerns must be dealt with swiftly, but in a non-confrontational manner. Parents that get upset and confront a coach at the game in a negative manner – should be ignored (don’t allow your players to see you in a negative discussion with a parent). Your goal is to work out a positive solution to problems, not make a problem worse. The role of the parent must be to support the coach and their child. Parents that don’t agree with a coach or believe in their coaching style, still must be supportive. Sometimes parents will make comments in front of their child about the coach – this is probably the number one mistake a parent can make. Parents must refrain from making comments that will be detrimental to the team. It is hard being a parent on the sideline, but it’s even harder being the coach.
Dealing with problem parents – Coach’s should never allow the following:
a) Parents yelling negative comments / cussing at the referees.
b) Parents yelling at the players (scream instructions, etc – that’s the coach’s job).
c) Parents that are “trash talking” to parents of the opposite teams players.
d) Parents cussing.
e) Parents talking negative about the coach (you) with the other parents.
Dealing with “a, b, c, and d” situations shown above: During a game, if a parent is a problem, it needs to be dealt with right away (you should deal with it as it is happening, don’t wait until after the game). The head coach cannot leave the bench, and must continue coaching so I always gave “Parent Detail” to my assistant coach’s. One of my assistant coach’s would simply walk over to the stands and ask the parent to refrain from making comments. My rule is that we first ask the parent to refrain from making comments, and if they continued, the second part is that the player would have to sit on the bench until the parent stopped their negative behavior. The player would be told the situation, and most of the time the parents stopped their negative behavior right away (because parents want their child to be in the game). Keep in mind that this rule was only applied to the extreme negative behavior situations.
Real Life Example: Our team was leading by 1 point with about a minute left to go in the game. I called a time out to instruct the players not to shoot the ball, and to be prepared for the other team to “foul” us to stop the clock. The players go out on the court and waste about 30 seconds, then the worst thing happened – one of the parents started to scream “shoot, shoot – what are you doing, shoot the ball” so one of our players shoots the ball and misses the shot. The ending to this story is that the other team got possession of the ball, scored, stopped us from scoring, and we lost. The parent that yelled those “shooting instructions” came up to me and said “what were they doing out there, none of them would shoot?” I called a meeting and explained what the strategy was and also explained to the parent why it didn’t work (they were very embarrassed and apologized, but we still lost the game). Keep your parents in check…
Dealing with the “e” situation shown above: If you ever hear about a parent that is bad mouthing you in front of the other parents – you can try the following”
1. Don’t do anything, just ignore it (the problem may go away, or get worse).
2. Confront the parent in a positive manner and say – “Just so you know, I have been hearing from the other parents that you don’t agree with my coaching style,” and then say “I don’t expect everyone to agree with my coaching style, but I am making every effort to ensure the players become better basketball players.” The parent will most likely not make any more comments since they now know it will get back to you.
3. Give them a way out! If a certain parent is becoming too much of a distraction, then give them the option to “quit” the team. This may lose you a player, but in the long run, will help the team move forward. If the parent chooses not to “quit” then you must let them know that their behavior cannot continue if their child is to remain on the team.
The absolute worst mistake a parent can make!
Is yelling at and / or chewing out their child after a game. There is nothing good that can ever come out of a parent chewing out their child after a game. The last thing a player wants to hear is how bad they played from their parents (especially after they’ve already heard it from their coach).
* I’ve seen many good players stop playing basketball because they really couldn’t take all the abuse from their parent(s) anymore. Some players will not try as hard because they are scared that if they make a mistake, they will get yelled at.
* Players can lose interest, and even though they stay on the team, they are not as motivated to improve their skills. Coaches should talk to the parents about this as soon as possible to discuss how this type of behavior can be very detrimental to the development of the player.
A discussion with the parent may or may not help with the situation, but at least you are not just sitting back and doing nothing (you are doing everything you can to help the situation and your team).
Understanding the Sportsmanship Role:
Some parents feel that “Sportsmanship” is the sole responsibility of the coach, but nothing can be further than the truth. Laying down the foundation of sportsmanship must be the job of the parents, and coach’s are responsible for “enforcing” the basic guidelines of sportsmanship. Plain and simple – both the parents and coach’s have a big role in the behavior of the players (it’s not just the function of the coach). Win or Lose, players must exhibit good sportsmanship at all times. Players must never be allowed to blame the referees, other players, or the coach’s for bad decisions or calls – this is unacceptable! Players must never make fun of opponents, brag, or trash talk after a victory (even in victory good sportsmanship is crucial). Players can learn valuable “life-lessons” (including character) over the long term if they are taught respect, responsibility, and good sportsmanship by both the parents and coach’s.
It is hard enough having to deal with the many aspects of coaching youth basketball without the addition of unruly parents adding to the mix. All the information and suggestions above come from “real life” coaching experiences. The information on how to handle unruly parents are only “suggestions” and they “may or may not” work for every coach that tries to implement them. Hopefully this information will at least give you some guidelines and ideas that you can use and work with. Good Luck!