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Parents should let coaches coach

Pardon me if it seems like I write a column like this every year. It’s a subject that is a perennial hot-button topic.

Let’s get one thing straight from the start: Parents, no matter how well intentioned, can’t see anything objectively when it comes to their sons and daughters and their coaches.

I’ve struck up relationships with dozens of parents over the years who strictly abide by what I call the let-Johnny- play-and-let-the-coach-coach strategy.

Still, even those parents have an opinion or two.

Years ago when I was in high school I never heard of parents harassing coaches. Today it happens more often than I care to consider. If an influential parent gets his feathers ruffled, it can be the end of a coach.

Not all coaches are good coaches. I don’t want to come off as saying they never do anything wrong. Far from the truth. But I believe more times than not – and that would be at least 90 percent of the time – I’d side with a coach in a parent/athlete/coach conflict.

There seems to be a shift going on regarding parent/coach relationships. I was reading an article in a National Federation of High Schools publication about coaches building proactive relationships with parents.

I remember talking with a coach recently who for several years avoided parents like the plague. He had a strict policy. He would be glad to talk to any parent, but the one issue that could never be talked about was playing time.

After a break in his coaching career, he returned a couple of years ago and immediately started embracing parents and letting them be involved, at the least peripherally, in his program.

You must admit that coaches are highly, highly scrutinized. And it comes in three forms – by administrators, by parents and by athletes.

I’m a parent. I understand the frustrations we parents go through in desiring the best for our children. But our desire for the best for our kids can’t impede or supersede the maturation process of being involved in athletics and being coached.

This much I’ve learned: My child, no matter how difficult the situation he is going through, would much rather I stay out of the situation. I believe that applies to most athletes and their parents.

Nothing infuriates a coach more than when a parent, unbeknownst to their son or daughter, unloads on a coach.

There’s a process. A parent should first sit down with Johnny or Mary and talk about the issue. Perhaps it’s only an issue in the parent’s mind, not the child’s mind. That might eliminate some frustration right there. If it’s a shared frustration, then the coach needs to set up a meeting with the coach and the son or daughter needs to be present.

If the parent isn’t satisfied at that point, the next and final step is to arrange a meeting with the coach, athletic director and athlete.

Coaches can stem a lot of problems with parents by having preseason parent meetings. In those meetings, a coach can share his strategy and parental leaders can be identified to work in conjunction with team/coach/player functions. Getting off on the right foot and allowing parents to see a little bit of who you are as a coach can foster solid working relationships.

What it comes down to is all parties have a common goal, and that goal is to win.

Sure, there could be bumps in the road in attaining that goal. But that path can be much smoother for all involved if parents parent and coaches are allowed to coach.