Dealing with parent, and player conflict

The following is a response to a reader’s suggestion.

To date, I have coached boys and girls sports for 17-years, and in that time I have had my share of difficult parents and players.

One event that comes to mind involved one of my players, her parent, my assistant coach, and the principal of our school. The player’s complaint was I didn’t like her.

I can be a bit demanding with my student-athletes; she interpreted it as me picking on her and not liking her.

Usually, issues with players revolve around playing time or playing a specific position, but this was not the case here. This player was my starting pitcher, and first baseman.

So we’re sitting in the principal’s office discussing how we can work things out. In most of these situations it gets down to complaining and finger pointing, and I didn’t want that to happen. Remember, this was one of my starters, and the team depended on her.

Here is where the meeting took a positive spin…

I wrote down everything I respected about this student-athlete; I had a list of 10 things. After I read that, I could see a shift in her and her dad’s emotions. Then, I gave a couple of examples of things she had done that I didn’t appreciate, and wanted her to stop.

So what did I learn about dealing with parent, and player conflict that day? Here’s five things:

1. Work on your communication skills—daily. I am better at communicating with parents/players today than I was 17-years ago.

2. Don’t expect fair and reasonable parents. We are all usually a little one-sided and defensive when it comes to our children. Parents have one agenda: their child. Coaches also have an agenda, and other people’s children fit into it.

3. Remain calm. When a parent comes to you with a complaint it usually gets to a boil by the time it gets to you. They want someone to pay. In the team meeting at the beginning of each year, I asked that if a parent had a complaint to not address it at practice or after a game. Instead, she/he should call me and we could set a time to talk.

4. Ask how things are going—often. Address the issue (if there is one) while it is still small if you can.

5. Remember, everyone’s an expert from the bleachers. I have never made a bad decision or blown a game  from the bleachers. Neither have most parents, but anybody who has coached knows it’s different on the other side of the fence.

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One Response to “Dealing with parent, and player conflict”

  1. Lizzie Rodarte October 7, 2010 at 11:25 pm #

    Mike, here is my new e-mail address.

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