Date of publishing: 9th February 2017
What challenges have you faced by attempting to increase the level of parental involvement?
As with any large unstructured task, where to start. Like coaching a player, the information as to be formatted, understandable and regulated. It’s impossible to give parents a long list of terms and conditions required to develop a youth athlete. On top of that, parents are more interested in the stuff that interests them. In contrast, they tend to disregard the finer details that aren’t as engaging though play just as much importance to the final product. After all that information, there’s the task of convincing parents to buy into the work required. And it does require work. It’s far easier to shrug off the responsibilities away from practices and games as something of sub-importance. Finally, the follow up questions parents ask. Often fair questions, they pose difficult answers, sometimes there aren’t even answers to give. It’s difficult being asked questions I don’t know the answer to, then I must to explain that I don’t know the answer while convincing a parent I still know what I’m doing. Occasionally I’m asked questions I can’t answer openly for worry that a parent will take the answer as an insult rather than constructive criticism.
Have you seen a difference in players when parental involvement is embraced not neglected and/or ignored?
Yes. A girls’ team I train at my AYSO club in America embraced parent participation and interest, leading to a very successful season. Their coach took the incentive early in the season to relate what I was working on back to the parents so they could understand. My objective wasn’t to see how many goals we could score, but how little we could concede. I was working on a more defensive team set up where typically there’s a big emphasis on attacking and scoring with the ball, especially at youth level. The coach of this girls’ team was open to this idea, seeing that after we took scoring and results out of the picture, we could focus more on development.
What I hadn’t expected was his initiative to relate this all back to the parents in the detail and frequency that he did. The parents now understood why we were working the way we were working. They were not only supportive of their own child but now the entire youth team, with every player being a regular at every training practice and family showing up en masse to show their support on game days. What intrigued me the most was that we had started the season with the intention of disregarding the results on the scoreboard and focusing on the technical results on the field. Due to the atmosphere set by parents and coaches alike, there was no pressure for the players. They were enjoying themselves and as a result of just that, they ended up earning their results both on the field and on the scoreboard.
What advice would you give coaches that are unsure about increasing parental involvement within youth sports?
Take the initiative and approach parents. Rather than seeing them as opposition to the style and ideas you coach, see them as part of your team. After all, if you can utilize the parents of your youth players, you’ll find that they’re a great asset to your team. In contrast to the few contact hours a week you have with your youth players, their parents will have the most. Take advantage of that. Understanding the way you incorporate the parents is important. Rather than present a list of demands and requirements, demonstrate your reasoning, and ask questions and opinions. Though you are the coach, they are the parent. As I defined in my acorn analogy before, in terms of the development of the youth player, it’s much more efficient and prosperous to see and treat each other as an equal influence.
For those parents unaware of their influential role, what advice would you give parents?
Though surprisingly simple, I can appreciate that it’s easier said than done. That being said, my advice would be to encourage whatever your child aspires to do. To provide an anecdote to supplement my lack of experience on the subject, I’ve no hesitation in admitting my mother as a great example. When I decided I wanted to make a career out of football, it was an unprecedented risk. It would have been safer for my mother to convince me to pick a more cautious option. Instead, she actively supported my ambitions. My mother is also greatly influential in the manner and mindset with which I coach. I’m supportive of freedom of expression and mistakes. Trying new things, making mistakes and trying them again. I encourage players to be the individual they want to be in the game. Granted, I may be too lenient though that’s a consequence that’s yet to make an impression in my coaching career.
My mother isn’t the most prominent character when it comes to sport. She constructively used of her influence, nurtured and support me, for which I am thankful. Also, if I as a coach have any influence on a youth athlete, she’s now prominent in influencing them. My advice is to simply be there. Use your role to encourage and support your child’s aspirations and ambitions, not only in sport but any walk of life. I can promise you in turn that whatever your child does, they’ll enjoy doing, they’ll be thankful for it and your influence as a parent sets the pretext for the future.
What is next for you as a coach/club/organisation?
Continue the pursuit of a dream. I adore what I do now, the environment I’ve been immersed in over the formative years of my coaching journey has been surreal. However, I am passionately ambitious and with that inquisitively audacious. I aspire to one day coach on the world stage. I’m going to keep pushing myself, trying to build and develop as a coach. One day, I’ll need to leave the comfort zone I find myself coaching in now with the aim of gaining experience in more intense settings.
Until the next opportunity presents itself, I hope to keep doing what I’m doing. That is; coaching at every opportunity, learning as much as I can and then implementing different ideas, and most importantly enjoying my work while seeing the development of the youth players I coach.
Sean, would highly recommend the following:
Football Coach2Share (https://www.facebook.com/groups/coach2share/)
Keep it on the Deck (https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=keepitonthedeck)
Fastek Football Coaching Forum (https://www.facebook.com/groups/354173824767922)
as a source of great content for everyone involved in football.
Sean would also recommend, endorse and promote The Sporting Resource
“Thank you to The Sporting Influencer for the opportunity and your time, and thank you to all the coaches who’ve influenced me to date.” – Sean Doyle
Thank you to Sean Doyle, for taking the time to complete the following interview questions.
The Sporting Resource