Date of publishing: 21st November 2017
Can you give us a bit of background information on yourself?
Coaching for 10 years +, 3 years full time. UEFA B Licence Holder. Coerver Youth Diploma Holder. FA Level 2 In Talent ID. USW MSc Sports Coaching.
Played as a goalkeeper, abroad in Spain for 3 years for C.D Torrevieja & Elche C.F and also turned out for local clubs, Conwy Borough, Llandudno Junction & Glan Conwy. Career was cut short at 23 due to muscular and ligament damage in both knees so coaching became my way of staying involved in football.
Currently coaching across all three academy phases (Youth, Development & Professional) at Llandudno Football Club as well as working in the Llandudno Football in the Community project with pre-academy and FUNdamental age groups. Experience with Vancouver Whitecaps (MLS) Academy Coach.
How would you define a parent(s) role within the youth sports environment?
For me personally, a parent has to be that first port of support. Not just in football but in life, I was very fortunate to be brought up by parents who supported me with everything I wanted to do, from judo (yes, really!) to my real passion, football.
That’s the essence of being a parent, you support your child to become the best they can be – you can’t dictate what they do or pressure them, you just have to guide and give advice – will your child listen? Let’s be honest probably not, I know I didn’t, but I am able to look back now and say ‘yeah, that was good advice’ or ‘should’ve taken that on board.’
By being overbearing or harsh on performance of your child you are setting them up to fall out of the love with the game, I’ve seen it happen too many times, to footballers who are incredibly talented but their motivation and drive goes out of the window at 14, 15 due to being pressured from an early age.
What are the benefits of embracing parental involvement within youth sports?
I think all of the above are vital – parents MUST be involved with their child’s sporting development but in the right way.
Having an open channel of communication with the coach and their child will set out clear expectations that the player can 1. Understand and 2. Implement and then the parent can support those goals/outcomes and feel like they are part of the process and they understand as I think that is largely the problem, parents don’t understand for example, why do we play out from the back instead of ‘humping’ the ball long? Well because for your child’s development, putting them in a situation where they are required to think for themselves and solve the problem presented to them will be more beneficial long-term than just clearing the ball at every opportunity. Just small explanations like this can go a long way.
How have you as a coach/club attempted to increase parental involvement?
I provide on regular occasions reading materials that my players can take home and I encourage them to read them with a parent, so they are both taking on the same information and if there’s something they don’t understand then who best to ask than Mum or Dad!
Our academy also holds a parent and player presentation evening where they are given the opportunity to ask questions and get an insight into what has been coached this season.
Twice a year we also hold player reviews and encourage the parents to be involved in those as it’s a chance one on one to ask questions, gauge understanding and get a general feel for their child’s development which I think is important.
What challenges have you faced by attempting to increase the level of parental involvement?
To be completely honest I haven’t personally faced any problems when trying to increase parental involvement! I think parents are open to being involved it’s just how you put it across!
Take player reviews, for example, If I said ‘right come in on x date at x time and we’re going to tell you all the negatives about your son/daughter’s performances in academy football this season’ – that wouldn’t go down too well as you can imagine. But if we say ‘on x date at x time we are going to explore your son/daughter’s development and engagement this season in academy football, looking at their areas for improvement but also their strengths.’ – You obviously get a better reaction and a willingness form parent and player to participate.
Have you seen a difference in youth athletes when parental involvement is embraced not neglected and/or ignored?
Yes, most definitely, when a child knows that they are not going to get an earful in the car journey home or from the sidelines during, their level of enjoyment increases thus improving the chances that they don’t quit the sport.
They also know that mistakes will happen and they won’t be punished for making them, it increases their willingness to try new skills/techniques and also be creative in their play!
What advice would you give coaches that are unsure about increasing parental involvement within youth sports?
TRY! That’s the only advice I can give, try it, whatever methods you can think of, give them a go. Why not? What do you have to lose? It could be a way of re-engaging with that child who has become disillusioned with the sport or getting that ‘difficult’ parent onside.
For those parents unaware of their influential role, what advice would you give parents?
Be there for your child. Win, Lose, Draw. Play 10 minutes or 80 minutes. Just be an ear, be an arm. It’s the little things, when they’re playing just a ‘well done’ will give your child a huge boost and encourage them further. You are their role model and your involvement means the world to them, always remember that.
What is next for you as a coach / club / organisation ?
Wow, I mean as a coach you’re always looking for new ways of doing things – the modern game moves at million miles an hour so it can become overwhelming, I think we are looking to maintain what we are doing now to a high standard and then embrace new methods and concepts as they come to fruition.
For me personally, I always remember my first coaching qualification and what the mentor said on the first day ‘Improve your players by improving yourself’, and that’s something that has stuck with me and something I’ll continue to do, whether it be CPD courses, badges etc. or new ways of working with parents and who knows what the future may hold.
Massive thank you, James for taking the time to complete the following interview questions.
The Sporting Resource