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It's not You, It's Me: Taming the Crazy Sports Parent.

Posted by padmin on June 18, 2015

Another great perspective from Sports Mom and author Jodi Brichta-Coyne. We have heard articles from coaches and gym owners about what they want from sports parents, but now we hear from a sports parent what she needs to be supportive and stay away from the CRAZY.

After reading many articles by sports psychologists about sports parenting I have to agree, for the most part, what the role of a sport parent should be. However, I can’t help but draw some basic conclusions that I hope will shed some light on the subject for both coaches and parents involved. I think we forget that the bottom-line is that many sports organizations are a business. The parent pays for a service and the organization is expected to deliver a service. In the case of gymnastics; I pay the gym, the gym pays the coach and coach teaches my child different skills involved in the sport.

As a small business consultant and a parent of two young athletes, I feel there is certain information that should be shared between a sports organization where a child attends and the ‘paying’ customer in order to establish a mutual partnership that will endure in the long run.

First and foremost, when an athlete walks into the gym they are a customer period! Besides that, the gym owner also needs to accommodate the parent as they are the one paying for the service, so it really is a package deal. Face it, you can’t have one without the other.

As a consultant, when I first sign on a new client I sit down with them and attentively listen to their needs. I understand their mission, vision and their goals. There is a lot of hand holding in the beginning and sharing of information to reach an understanding of mutual respect so together, we can work on solutions as a team. If the client didn’t offer information to me to understand what their goals where then it would be very difficult to implement positive changes moving forward.

Now let’s turn to the arena of youth sports, where there seems to be the huge divide between parents and coaches/gym owners and therefore the “team” (parent, coach, athlete) doesn’t always work well together. WHY?, in short, lack of communication! It seems as though the parents are seen as the enemy and the gym would rather just coach the athlete and avoid the parent at all costs. In reality, the parents are not the enemy, the gym needs their support, coaches need their support and the parents want to be supportive.

In order to be successful, all parties have important roles to play to establish a happy relationship. All communication needs to be addressed in the beginning, middle and throughout. When most of the cards are laid out on the table and the questions of who, what, why, when, where are answered then there’s less room for interpretation and we, as parents, don’t have to turn to unreliable sources such as other parents or even our say our 10-yr old athletes, to find out what’s going on. In other words, straight forward communication is key to a thriving business. The more you set yourself up for success the more successful your organization will be and therefore, less headaches down the road.

So look at it from a parent’s perspective,

Let’s say I walk into a lawyers, doctors or even a mechanics office in need of their “expertise” and services. I may have been referred or perhaps I was smart and researched their credentials and decided to hire them. In any event, they communicate with me, their customer, and give a detailed estimate. The estimate includes what the charges are for, their rate and I am also briefed as to what to expect to get in exchange for my hard working money. I do not take their information and attempt go to court and represent myself or perform surgery on myself. The same holds true for coaching my child. If they communicated to me in simple straight forward terms, I can trust that I am getting the services rendered. I wouldn’t walk in and say here’s thousands of dollars just do your job either. For instance, would you drop your car off and then pick it up and have them say $1000 please and then not ask questions about what they fixed. Would you entrust the mechanic knows what he is doing and just drive away? No, you wouldn’t and that’s a car not a human being, no less your child..

So why would youth sports be any different? If I am entrusting my child to the “experts” there should be open communication in the beginning, throughout and end of their journey. I should feel comfortable asking questions so I know what I am getting in return. Building rapport with the customer is imperative to be successful. A trust and mutual respect has to be established in order for parents to understand the process- especially in the beginning. This is where boundaries are established as well. We know coaches/gym owners have been doing this for years and we are not questioning their credentials, however, they often neglect the fact that their ‘new’ customers need to be hand held through the process. Remember it’s a whole new world for most of them and they have no idea what journey they are in for. It’s not until they have been there for years and their athletes are older and have moved up in levels, that the parents feel safe about letting go. Even that, checking in from time to time and communicating any concerns about their athlete or their process is always welcomed.

If coaches and gym owners are labeling parents such as “crazy” for not understanding the process then it is no fault but their own when parent’s turn to other “unreliable” sources. If the coach/gym owner sends out the vibe like they don’t want to be bothered or appear unapproachable/sneer at too many questions it’s probably because they haven’t established a proper operations manual/parent’s guide for their business. Coaches not only coach the athlete, they also have to build rapport with the parents. This way all are on board because in the end, what we all want is what’s best for the athlete. It doesn’t serve any purpose if coaches send off negative energy to parents that they are unapproachable or don’t want to be bothered. It makes them uneasy and wonder if their child is in good hands and they are doing right by them. It’s even harder to drop them off and just pick them up which is what they would want.

There is also the issue of understanding their sport and a sport like gymnastics is as gray as it gets. It’s one thing to watch a soccer match where the main objective is to get the ball in the goal and you cheer when they do. It is also understood that whatever team gets the most goals wins. Gymnastics is complicated and in order for parents to be able to encourage, empower and embrace their child’s athletic journey it helps if they are educated on what to expect, especially at competitions. For instance, having a gymnastics 101 class or guide to teach basic information to parents would be so helpful for both parties. This way they can enjoy watching their athletes and not go into it blindly thus, making their own conclusions.

In soccer, I understand if a referee blows a whistle and the player is off sides, I know what that means. In gymnastics when it looks like my daughter hits her bar routine and receives a low score, it would reduce frustration if I knew the low score was due to bent arms on her free hip, not hitting above horizontal, and hitting her feet on the floor during her glide. I don’t need to know all the deductions, It would be nice to be educated and to be able to follow along. This is an area that needs to be explained to parents because its difficult to comprehend and where a lot of questions arise.

The bottom line is with all businesses today; getting to know your customers (especially if they are in it for the long run), understanding their needs and communication are imperative to maintaining and continuing to grow your business.

Lastly, as parents, it is innate that we guide and support our young. Even the education system needs parents on their team and play their roles at home in order for their child to learn, be successful and have their child move through the system. They are their biggest support system and there is no “i” in team. Just like when a child is learning to walk; first we hold both hands and support them up, then as they get stronger we let one hand go and walk beside them, then we are down to one finger and soon we let them go and before we know it they are thriving and running. But remember they always stop and look back if we are still there, not just for approval, also to protect them (well, not all some just take off like banshees)…

Ultimately, they need us, you need us, we just need to get on the same team… So coach, talk to us, educate us, show us the boundaries and PLEASE tag us in!

For more information on Jodi, visit her at www.goldmedalmoms.com and follow her on Facebook, at Gold Medal Moms. Twitter at @gold_medalmoms.

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