Often there is a stigma in education and athletics that parents are the enemies. I have heard more than one coach sarcastically boast that the best coaching job could be found in an orphanage. The truth is that, as coaches, we really need parents in order to do the best job we possibly can. Of course, these coach/parent relationships must be mutual. When a healthy, cooperative relationship exists between coaches and parents the ceiling rises on the potential for the team. It is imperative that both coaches and parents are aware of this synergy.


The following are three ways that coaches need parents in order to make their program successful:

1. Coaches must be able to communicate their expectations to parents. – This is usually accomplished in a pre-season parent meeting. Many state associations are making these parent meetings mandatory for coaches. This is great if coaches use the meeting to communicate what they expect from their athletes and parents during the season and in the off-season. In my pre-season parent meetings, I passed out practice schedules, informed parents of team policies, and reminded them that their actions represent the school and program when they watch the games, among other agenda items.

2. Coaches must have “buy in” from each parent regarding their athletes’ roles. – First, the coach must define the role of his players. I always told the players and the parents that this is their role but it was subject to change, based on the performance of the player. If a role is not communicated, or (even worse) never defined, there leaves room for the parent and player to question the coach’s decisions. Most questions regarding the coaching has a negative effect on the team. An understanding of the player’s role makes it easier for the parent to support the performance of the player and how it relates to the team.

3. Coaches need the assistance of parents to determine how to best motivate their athletes. – I often joke that being a coach qualifies me to be a licensed psychologist. Obviously, I am being sarcastic but it is true that coaches need a tremendous amount of knowledge on what makes each player tick. What may motivate one player may not motivate another. It is important for parents to have discussions with parents on what motivates them because, after all, the parents know the athletes better than anyone. Parents may also be able to make a coach aware of personal matters involving players that no one else would be able to communicate.

This blog post may seem like it is most appropriate for high school, or even lower-level, coaches in working with parents. However, these three suggestions are important for coaches at the collegiate level, as well. A lot of communication with parents at the collegiate level occurs during the recruiting process. This is great, but in an age when parents are becoming more and more involved at the collegiate level coaches must invest in these relationships.

Question: What unique ways do you involve parents in your program?