Coaches Blog #1: Parents

Coaches Blog #1: Parents

In the first edition of VNZ Coach Development Manager Shaun Matthews, he talks about the tools coaches can use to work more effectively with parents of their players.

What tools can we arm coaches with, to positively influence how parents support the experience of young people in sport? See below 5 tips for coaches to work more effectively with parents.

1. Have a clear philosophy of coaching/vision and share it with the parents.

A coaching philosophy is a series of guiding principles that inform your coaching practice and decision making. It’s your compass for coaching. Having a clear vision and sharing that with the parent body will help to provide clarity on your approach and the decisions you make, therefore preventing conflict.

Your team might have some guiding principles too. A team culture is comprised of three essential pillars that support the way a group functions and performs: their values, attitudes, and goals. Values: what they stand for. Attitudes: how they portray those values. Goals: the direction the group is heading. If you take the time to develop a team approach, share that with the parents too. 

* The parents are part of the team’s culture. Just like the player and coaching group, the parents can strengthen and weaken the culture.

2. The parents are going to play a role, help them better understand what that could look like.

A player’s role is to put in maximal effort at training and games. A coach’s role is to teach. A parent’s role is to support. 1. Support effective decision makers and problem solvers. Listen and ask questions, so that young people can find solutions to their own problems as opposed to fixing things for them. Encourage self-responsibility, curiosity, and creativity. 2. Focus on effort and improvement > winning and losing. Making mistakes is an important part of the learning process. Our young people should be encouraged to try new skills, take risks, and grow through making mistakes.

(Research in youth sport has shown that individuals have developed fixed mindsets when they have been praised for their ‘talent’ or results and outcomes. Children who have these experiences of praise for their talent often then find themselves in situations where they chose easier options and give up earlier than children who were praised for their effort. Dweck, 2006)

3. Include/inform parents where necessary.

The interpersonal relationships between the parent, coach, and athlete are often referred to as the athletic triangle. As players in your group mature and develop, the dynamic between each of these relationships can change. For a younger participant (up to year 11, depending on the individual) the coach:athlete:parent triadic relationship is important. When making decisions about players, their position, game time, etc. include the parents in those conversations. For an older participant (year 11 and up, depending on the individual) a coach:athlete dyad is more likely to appear, as a young person becomes more independent and self-responsible. Having an awareness of this dynamic during player development is an important consideration for coaches and parents.

4. Encourage the player group to share what the focus is for training/games etc.

I once coached a group who opted to play a zonal defence. One of the parents would instruct players to mark ‘man-to-man’ from the side-lines. As you can imagine, the group were confused, and it had a major impact on our progress. So, I asked the player group “do any of your parents know that we play a zonal defence?” (0/18). If the parents don’t know something, you might find them working against you (without any intention to). My advice… challenge the player group to reflect on the team’s approach with their parents/guardians. Not only will it help the parents support more deliberately, but it will also help the players understand the team strategy on a deeper level

5. Remind parents that times may get tough.

Player development is dynamic and non-linear. Each young person will develop at different rates from a technical, tactical, physical, and psychological aspect. This can often lead to a misconception that a player is plateauing, which can result in increased pressure, less enjoyment, lack of confidence, etc. There might also be occasions where, as a coach, you push someone outside of their comfort zone to illicit a learning response.

When times get tough, the parent’s role is not to smooth the journey. The parent’s role is to help with planning, guidance, how to respond, bounce back, etc. Challenges are necessary and inevitable. Motivation, dedication, and resilience are essential skills to develop. Can parents support young people to develop the habits, behaviours, and the mindset to navigate tricky situations for the next time they crop up?

Thank you for taking the time to read!


Shaun Matthews - 
VNZ Coach Development Manager

Volleyball New Zealand | Poirewa Aotearoa
Oceania Volleyball
Volleyball New Zealand Inc
Sports House, Stadium Drive,
Albany, Auckland, New Zealand