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How to manage parents's expectations? | Coaching Children (Ages 5-12)

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Coaching Children (Ages 5-12)

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Posted in: Managing Parents

How to manage parents's expectations?

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  • andrewb62

    How do you manage the parent who expects his child (it is almost always the father, in my experience, at least) who wants his child to move up to the next age-group, or to be set to work harder on drills, when the coach believes the child would be better off practicing and playing with others of the same age?

    "I'm the coach and I know best" won't work - "I know my child better than you, and I know he is ready to step up".

    "This is Club/Academy/Team policy" fails, for the same reason.

    What do you say?

  • David_T

    Hi Andrew,

    I think in a situation like this, a few things needs to happen.

    First the club needs a strong ethos and rationale and these need to be advertised in welcome packs, clubhouses etc.  If parents don't want to buy into that club philosophy, on this and other topics e.g. Safeguarding, then i'm sure other clubs will be available who have a greater focus on short-term success.  If they have a problem later down the line, you can say well here is what you agreed to.

    Also, I like to be armed with an an evidence base, we know for a fact from research accross the sector that not specialisng too early in 1 sport benefits children in team games by enhancing their creativity, decison making and strategic skill.  that should be the primary focus for children in those sports if they really want to benefit from coaching.   Whereas in sports measured in centimetres, seconds and grams (CGS), we know that playing lots of different sports is less important, but not training 'too hard' is important...children do not need to step up to that level until about 18 in many of these sports and it is a nonsense that they're missing valuable training time.  Focusing on CGS sports still, those who make it to elite level usually begin to train at a high level from 18 onwards and have longer senior success and health than those who begin training this hard younger than that.  They also catch up the number of training hours by the early 20s too - just in case anyone is wedded to Erikson et al.  What they sacrifice is junior international success-  but who remembers those anyway!?

    If a parent still isnt happy then there is little you can really do.  If they don't believe your clubs values, coaching experience and evidence based ratioanle, then perhaps they were always going to come into conflict with the club.  Sadly, as it's the child that suffers.

    Finally, in a shameless plug, we have a module available now as part of the sports coach UK online safeguarding renewal, that talks about positive sports parenting and what coaches can do.


    Hope this helps?




  • LizBurkinshaw

    Could their be a transisition period where they 'trial' being in next group with the option to come back if it doesnt work?

    It can be easy to forget that parents actually are the experts of their children, but that maybe sometimes they are clouded by their own aspirations and experiences in the requests they make.

    What kind of reasons do parents give for wanting to move their children to the next group? Are there other reasons that aren't technical and tactically based? staying with friends, better time slot for practices, etc


  • JonWoodward74

    Hi Andrew - excellent question!

    I have written some blogs around this (please see my feed for The Role of the Sporting Parent and Engaging the Audience and the Spectator)

    There are two phrases I think about around this issue.

    The first is one from the person who gave me my first coaching opportunity - "Self Praise is no Recommendation"

    And the other (and I honestly can't remember who said it), is "If a parent is telling me how good their child is, they probably aren't that good"

    I try and set out the process early, and manage the expectations of all of the people involved and understanding the long term nature of development, and to justify why the process is as it is through evidence of player developent.

    I see both sides of the process now as a sport parent to a gymnast, and I think (I hope!) I am not a parent I always found frustrating. I will question why something is happening, but that is only becasue I want to understand the why in a sport I do not know.

    I have questioned the coaches at gymanstics on why they have moved my daughter to different groups, when looking at your age, social group and always felt it was with the best intentions - i also have an understanding with the coaches now, is that i will question why they are doing something. It is very similar to a parent-teacher relationship - it has to be a two way support system, for the benefit of the child - you each bring valuable knowledge of the the child to he conversation, and the focus should always be for the benefit of them and nobody else


    Hope this helps!

  • JonWoodward74

    Or you could just read what Dave and Liz said....laughing

  • andrewb62
    On 08/06/15 14:46, Liz Burkinshaw said:

    What kind of reasons do parents give for wanting to move their children to the next group?

    We do hear "social" arguments, and you can't really argue with that - after all, at the community/participation level we are supposed to be encouraging young players to enjoy participating, and so often that means playing with friends (or attending at the same time as big brother, or simply not getting the chance to play).

    On 08/06/15 14:46, Liz Burkinshaw said:

    sometimes they [the parent's expectations] are clouded by their own aspirations and experiences

    Much more problematic, and it was an example of this type of (flawed) logic that sparked my original post.

    Rational argument doesn't seem to work; our only defence wouild be to show that our method does produce the desired results...but with 5-year olds, we really want the players to learn through self-discovery, rather than after being drilled...

    A challenge!

  • andrewb62

    oh for more enlightened parents!


  • PaulT

    This is an interseting one and one we often face. We actually quite often do the opposite and play players down due to physical atributes to allow them to develop. This always involves continuing to train & play with thier age group.

    I always remeber a converstaion I had with a youth coach at Crystal Palace who talked about Victor Moses. He said that he went from playign first team football on a Saturday to U18 football on the Wed, bust stated it actually helped his development. Being able to try things and excel in a less competive environment helped him to develop technical parts of his game and boost his confidence.

    If you can sell the returns for the player the parents are more likely to buy into your approach. The above analogy can be used for differnt outcomes outside of talent i.e. developing social skills of interacting with young people they don't know to combat the socail argument.

  • pippaglen


    I I've had the same experience in athletics last year, when the father to an athletes asked me to move his daughter from  Under 11s to under 13 group as she was far better than the rest of the athletes, I told him I couldn't do this as she wasn't old enough the athlete was only 10 and had only been with the club 3 months I was still in the process of assessing her as we had just moved from cross country season to track.  In a track relay competition our team came 3rd father stood on track and shouted at the daughter who then replied it wasn't me my team are **** and threw her button down.  

    The father told parents I was a bad coach and that he was moving his daughter to another club.   I never saw the athlete again. 

    The parent was an ex athletehimself, was he a pushy parent? 

    Should I have moved his daughter up a group? 

    We he just thinking about himself and not his daughter?


  • andrewb62

    hi Emma

    Sounds like a frustrating experience for all concerned.  You have to hope that the athlete has found an environment where she can just run without too much interference.

    My original question was sparked by simliar experiences as a cricket coach - parents often expect to see their children in the nets, with full kit and using a hard ball, just as they (the parents) learnt to play at school, 20 or 25 years ago.  And if we aren't giving the players this experience, we (the coaches) must be doing it wrong.

    But that's not the way we coach, now - in a typical hour long session, a player might bat for 10 minutes, bowl for 10 minutes, and spend the remaining 40 minutes waiting for their turn to bowl and watching someone else play.  What a waste of time!  Imagine doing that in a tennis or football session - for 40 minutes, you can go off and be the ball girls...

    So when we just "play games" and make the batsmen and bowlers take turns, rather than batting until they are out and bowlng until they are tired, what we are actually doing is making sure they all get lots of hits and lots of bowls, and perhaps remain engaged for the full session, not just the 10 minutes when they have their pads on...

  • ps.rhodes1

    I read an interesting piece the other day about squad sizes. As both a youth and senior coach I always take a full squad, with pitch time irrespective of ability. I've heard in other teams/sports that parents would be happier if the squad sizes were smaller, so all palyers had more time on the pitch, but would they be happy if their child was one of those dropped? A fellow teacher mentioned about his U14 cricket team. A player hits 50 one day batting 4 and bowls 4 overs. Next day his dad is very unhappy and the player was in tears when he was asked to bat 6 against a weaker team to enable new players to the squad (who don't bowl) to bat 4 & 5. 

  • ps.rhodes1

    As a parent, I'm sure the only person within your session that parent is concerned by is their child, not the remainder of the squad/group. 

    There is a reason coaches have responsibility for the group, they are ideally the most informed in terms of current sport specific understanding, pedagogy, as well as fostering the holistic development of the athlete. 

    We (regional coaches) recently had a discussion on how expectatiosn varied between personnel and what the ideal session would look like to that person. We discussed coaches/athletes/managers/parents. 

    We concluded that the parental view might be skewed by their experience of youth training (neat, non-chaotic, block practice, closed drills, 'fitness') and their focus on their childs needs abive the groups needs. 

    I would rebut their questioning of my rationale but justifying my practice design etc, as well as ensuring that all athletes are appropriately challenged, this may be very overt if necessary. In reference to stepping a player up a squad, I would discuss non-linear development with them, selecting various facets of the athletes game which are ideally developed this environment, focusing on the learning and development process rather than their current performance outcome. 

  • mantrobus

    This is a really common topic in my sport (football). A group of coaches posed a very similar question.

    Having read through the advice that everyone has given I completely agree with. There are many differing reasons for players playing up and down age groups. This could be to support their development technically, physically, pschologically or socially.

    A major factor has been missed however, what does the child want? If they are not motivated to play with older players then this could have an affect on their long term development. They may want (and need) to stay in their age group for social development. There is a lot of recent research undertaken on why kids play football - one of the overriding factors was to play with friends.

    This may help with managing the expectations with the parent.



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