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How to Build Effective Coach-Parent Partnerships

By Positive Coaching Alliance

Many Little League® managers and coaches sooner or later will have to address concerns of their players’ parents. Topics can range from playing time, position in the field, batting order, and other strategic and tactical questions like how to motivate players or help them adjust socially to teammates.

Rather than dread these scenarios, managers and coaches can benefit from embracing them, and even proactively inviting the conversations. This shows parents that you care about their children as players and as people and that you are willing to have whatever conversations that will contribute to overall development of their kids.

Step one is a pre-season parent meeting where you clearly communicate and set some ground rules. This is just as important for the tournament season or second season opportunities, as it is for the regular season. For example:

I am committed to working with each of you to make sure all of our players have a positive experience and learn and grow as players and people. I’m especially interested in any insights you may have to share with me about what motivates your children and how to get the best from them. I will have similar conversations with each of them from time to time throughout the season.

I know there are sometimes concerns about playing time or playing positions. If there are some concerns, I prefer that players ask me those questions. That will be a good learning experience for them in terms of learning how to express themselves and get answers they need, which are valuable life skills. It also helps me coach better if I know what’s going on in the players’ minds. That also can create a bond that benefits the player and the team as a whole.

If you feel the need to have that kind of conversation with me, rather than having your child do so, we can make that happen in private. Unless this is a matter of player safety, which is paramount to all of us, let’s not have a playing time discussion or the like within 24 hours of a game. It’s better just to e-mail, text or call and let me know you want to talk privately.

Such table-setting as early in the season as possible positions you ahead of the curve. It removes barriers and helps parents understand that you are so comfortable and confident enough in what you are doing that they are less likely to start a debate on playing time or positions in the field.

Once in a conversation about any of the above topics, it is important to listen. Hear the parents out without becoming defensive. Make sure they are finished speaking before you start. Just as 99 percent of difficult conversations can be avoided by setting ground rules at the start of the season, 99 percent of the difficult conversations that do occur are much easier once the parents have expressed their concerns out loud.

Then you can calmly explain your point of view and move together with the parents toward the solutions that are best for the overall development of that child, and teammates, as players and as people.

You can learn more about managers and coaches helping players’ parents keep things in perspective in this video of former Major League Baseball player and manager Jerry Manuel, which is included in a new website of free PCA resources at www.PCADevZone.org.

For more ideas on getting the most out of your players while teaching life lessons, take the full-length Little League Double-Goal Coach® Course at http://shopping.positivecoach.org/Little-League-DGC, or free Little League Double-Goal Coach® Quick Course at http://www.littleleague.org/pca.

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Coach's Box | June 2015 | Archive | CRC