Let me begin this by saying I am not an expert in the area of coach-player relationships. I'm not sure anyone is. If there is anything that I believe to be true it is this - the tension between coaches and parents has heightened considerably over the past 20 years. I had a colleague send out an article last week titled "High school coaches say dealing with parents has never been worse." I wonder if parents on the other side of the lens would echo the same sentiment. To me, this is one of those times when Jesus is clear, but the application is difficult. Read below from Matthew 7:1-5:
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.”
In the cases of both coaches and parents, we tend to complain about the other side without looking clearly at our own issues. Articles like this just aren't helpful as they perpetuate difficulty. What can we do, as coaches, to help bring peace to this area?
First, remember that information is available to everyone. Coaches are no longer mystics - a select few with a magical feel for the game. They must be able to articulate their program, their plans, and how they hope to grow the players in the game and beyond. The quote "because I'm the coach" died years ago. We can be better in bringing more clarity to the players and parents in our care.
Second, I don't believe that there is this unbelievable pressure to win from parents. Much of that pressure is self-imposed by every coach. We're competitive and losing causes us to go to dark places. Coaches can overcome this by creating a compelling vision for their programs and define a win for their culture. If you don't define wins by focusing on process over result, the pressure to win will choke a coach out.
Finally, the greatest thing a coach can do is look through the other side of the lens. I spoke to a parent last week whose oldest daughter was beginning a strength and conditioning program. He was nervous about his daughter doing heavy lifting and so on. All it took was an explanation of the vision, a compelling vision for her to participate, and showing empathy for his situation. It was his oldest daughter and he wanted to believe in what the program was doing. Sometimes it takes some experience as a parent to feel empathy, other times it just takes encouragement and common sense.
In every coach-parent situation, both sides would benefit by looking at Matthew 5:9: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”