How to handle parent conflicts

Dealing with parents is a topic that could be a Ph.D. program! My experience for the most part has been positive, but occasionally we all have to deal with difficult or upset parents. I’ve pulled from my personal experience and conversations with other successful coaches to develop a set of rules to live by during the season.

  1. My No. 1 rule is the 24-hour rule: There should be no questioning the coach for 24 hours after a game. Emotions are at their highest right after a game for both coaches and parents. Time to cool down usually takes care of most issues.
  2. Do not argue with parents.
  3. Constant communication with your players is vital. The best way to avoid parent conflicts is to keep all players fully informed regarding their playing time.
  4. Have a mandatory parents’ meeting once the team is selected. I have found Sunday afternoons tend to be a time that has few conflicts. Take this opportunity to clearly lay out your rules and expectations. Remember: whatever you say, you must abide by it.
  5. When you talk with parents about a player, remember you are talking about two different people. You’re talking about their son or daughter, not your player. They may have a hard time believing what you say if it doesn’t line up with their perception of their child.
  6. Meet with the parents in person. Again, a Sunday afternoon is a great time to meet. Plan to meet in your office or somewhere else away from the team. Believe it or not, most players do not want their parents there, especially in front of their teammates. Also, most people are reluctant to say things in person that come out freely over the phone.
  7. Your rules and expectations should be in written form. I would also suggest a code of conduct that is signed by the parents and players.
  8. Situations dictate coaches having to make some difficult decisions; however, I firmly believe that the gap between what you expect and what you accept must be very small.

At the end of the day the players need firm, fair leadership. Appreciation may be delayed, but it will be well received. Remember they are watching what you do, not what you say!