Every season, a coach is bound to meet one or two parents who feel that they can take over as coach.
These are the parents who may show up at every practice, are not hesitant to complain about their child’s playing time, and may even ask you to switch up players’ positions so that their child plays a more significant role.
They may even go as far as discussing how you should handle other teammates and ask you about your team strategy.
And on game day, you are likely to see and hear those parents yelling from the stands. They are questioning your decisions, telling you what to do, and even trying to get the attention of the coach from the opposing team.
Parents become this way for a number of reasons. One of them being, they are trying to live vicariously through their children. Seeing their kids succeed in sports means that they have themselves have succeeded. Because there is little they can do about the way that their child actually plays, they take it out on the coach on game day.
These types of parents feel so out of control that they will do whatever they can to include themselves in the outcome. Shouting from the stands makes them feel as though they are involved in the game somehow.
This type of behavior has gotten so out of hand that programs have been established to educate coaches and parents on how to act appropriately during games. In fact, the Respect in Sports Parent program has taught thousands of coaches and parents across Canada the correct behaviors at the sports field and rink.
Wayne McNeil, a founder of the Respect Group says, “Sport organizations have to deal with a lot of unruly and disrespectful parents. These parents have a negative effect on the team, the other parents, and even their own children.”
The program also empowers parent bystanders to take the appropriate action to reduce verbal abuse from the stands before it escalates to spectator violence.
The best advice for coaches who are dealing with parents like these is to simply ignore them. That’s right. Just ignore them.
While we cannot guarantee that they will eventually tire and stop, learning how to zone them out will help you do your job and get through the game.
And if you feel that the behavior has come to the point where it is embarrassing for the young athletes, particularly the child of the parent that is being disruptive to the game, or could escalate to something dangerous in the upcoming games, it is your duty to talk to the parent at a later time in private.
The parent should be reminded of the rules that you explained at the beginning of the season. That apart from the expectations that you had for their child as your athlete, there are also guidelines for parents to follow such as behaving appropriately during practices and games.