2 Steps To Minimize Parent Conflict

I want to share some advice on how you can minimize parent conflicts next season.

A few weeks back I wrote an article on the importance of having a well-defined coaching philosophy to help with potential disagreements and even prevent them...

And today I want to build on that by discussing two critical steps to building a positive relationship with parents... so that they'll be more willing to work with you, rather than against you.

These steps are...

  1. Establishing a relationship with parents that's built on trust.
  2. Getting parents to buy-into your definition of success for their child... which for the vast majority of players does not include a full-ride to Duke!

So let's start with the first step...

How do you establish a relationship built on trust?

An old adage comes to mind...

"No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care."

I think this quote is extremely relevant for coaches wanting to gain parents' trust...

Because if parents don't "know" with certainty that you genuinely "care" about their child... they are far more likely to question your decisions.

A book that I would recommend reading on this topic is InSideOut Coaching by Joe Ehrmann...

Particularly his emphasis on the importance of becoming a "transformational coach" rather than a "transactional coach"...

Because while the former is aimed solely at helping young adults reach their full potential both in and out of sports... the latter coaches out of selfishness, and is only interested in what they can get out of it for themselves.

So, the players' best interest must be at the core of everything you do.

What are some behaviors that exemplify this "player-centered" approach?

  • Care about your players, and treat them as you would your own child.
  • Treat every player fairly... regardless of their ability.
  • Ensure that competition for spots and playing time is fair.
  • Coach in a manner that's positive... and is centered on correcting problems rather than being overly critical and demeaning.
  • Take a genuine interest in your players and what their goals and personal interests are.


This is about building a relationship with your parents and parents... so that they have a good reason to put their trust in you.

Ok, let's move on to the second step to being able to "work with" parents...

Which is getting them to buy into your definition of success.

And I still don't think anyone has defined success better than Coach Wooden...

"[Success is the] peace of mind which can be attained only through the self satisfaction of knowing that you made the effort to become the best of which you're capable. And that's in the hands of all of us." -Coach John Wooden

So, success is going to be different for every player.

Success for your star player may be earning a D-1 scholarship, while for another player it may just be making the team.

Sounds simple enough!

But how do you get parents to buy into that definition?

One of the best ways I've seen comes from Coach Nate Sanderson, which he wrote about at length in this article.

At the very first parent meeting he distributes notecards on which parents are supposed to answer a series of questions.

And two of those questions are:

  • Write at least one reasonable, measurable goal you have for your daughter this season.
  • What do you want your daughter's experience to be like if she CAN'T accomplish any of the goals you wrote for her on the first card?

By doing this, as Coach Sanderson explains, you'll accomplish two things...

  1. You'll be able to address unreasonable expectations immediately... because as he explains, "The vast majority of the conflict we experience... is the result of unrealistic expectations."
  2. It allows parents to begin to see the value of their child's experience (and their own experience) even if they do not accomplish their original goals.

I think by asking these questions up front, and dealing with any unreasonable expectations immediately... will go a long way to getting parents to buy into a more reasonable definition of "success" for their child.

Ok, that's all for today!

Let me know what you think...

Have you shifted your mindset away from "dealing" with parents?

If so, what techniques have you used to get parents to "work with" you?

Do you like Coach Sanderson's approach of addressing tough questions at the start of the season?

I look forward to reading your responses!


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