Parents form one third of the youth sports support system (alongside coaches and other volunteers). They are the ones driving your athletes to practices and games, providing nutritious half-time snacks, organizing team parties and filling your stands...yes, they are invaluable! Most parents are content in their roles as fan and supporter, but how is a coach supposed to handle a sports parent that decides their place in on the field?
Here are 3 ways to manage the "helicopter" (that hovering) sports parent:
Establish ground rules
Make it very clear to your sports parents at the beginning of the season that the only people allowed in the dugout or on the field are the coaches and players. You can explain that you want to minimize the amount of distractions that could divert your player's attention away from the game. Having mom or dad watching from the sidelines, for some unfocused athletes can be distracting enough! Your sports parents need to respect you as the coach and your decisions if they fully expect their kids to do the same.
Set up a code of conduct before the season starts of what kind of behavior is and isn't acceptable during practices and games. Many sports organizations already have policies in place and you can just enforce the rules. Over involved and zealous sports parents tend to be the ones that become "those obnoxious sports parents" over the course of the seasons-the ones that coach from the sidelines, yell at the officials and argue with other parents. You want to prevent that behavior from happening before it has a chance to. Some parents may take offense to being pushed back to the stands, however, simply reinforce that it's for the well-being and safety of their child and other children.
Get them involved in a small way
Some parents can't help themselves...they love their kids! They have good intentions, but they want to be involved in everything their kid is doing, including your team. If you find yourself dealing with a parent that wants to help, find a way to let them participate but in a way that actually helps you or your sports organization. Get them to catch for your relief pitcher or take the soccer players on a warm-up jog around the field. Let the parent handle some of the smaller tasks so you can focus more on the game at hand. It makes them feel involved (and keeps them occupied) and frees up some of your time! Maybe they can help at the snack shop or take on some additional much needed volunteer roles in your sports organization (help is always needed!).
It's better to have a sports parent working for you then working against you. If you can get them involved without usurping your authority as the coach than everyone gets what they want and you don't to worry about a confrontation later on in the season.
Speak to them privately
If you have to talk to one of your parents, make sure it is done privately. Talk to them before or after practice or a game and explain why they need to reel it in a little bit. It's not that you don't appreciate their dedication to the team and their child's athletic career (of course you do!), but they need to treat you like the coach so their child sees you as the coach as well. Again, it's a matter of respecting you as the coach and also a fellow parent. You don't want to do this in front of the other parents or the players as it's embarrassing and might make your parent defensive. Most of the times sports parents don't even realize they've crossed a line, so a quick and private reminder will get everyone back on track.
Every team is bound to have one mom or dad that thinks they missed their calling to be a youth sports coach (you can remind them there is always room for more volunteers!). Involved parents are great, but there is a fine line between involved parent and helicopter parent. As a coach, you have to find a way to remind them that YOU are responsible for the coaching, safety and well-being of the team without causing and friction between you and them.