The greatest parents and coaches still make well-meaning mistakes – Sign up for free and insightful ways to avoid this here

SportParentEU have just produced an excellent library of tips for sporting parents called “PROMOTING THE HEALTH, WELLBEING, AND ENJOYMENT OF CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE INVOLVED IN SPORT: TIPS FOR PARENTS”. It can be found here:
The document is 16 pages long and covers topics such as Parents’ roles in sport, growth and development, physical training, nutrition, psychological strength and wellbeing, Talent identification and development, Sports integrity and moral development, Safeguarding, and parents’ experiences.

So what can clubs and sports teams do with this document?

(Please don’t just email it around to your parents or tweet it on the club site. Some will read it, but most will not. In my opinion, this would be a waste and is one of the reasons we struggle to engage parents well because we just lob advice at them without helping parents see the value in what we are saying.)

So what can you do with it…

1) Parents meeting

Have a parents meeting and excite the parents about the role they play in their child’s sport. Then share the document. You will not get every parent to the meeting, but those you get are more likely to explore the material if they have been valued and excited about what parents offer. Use evidence-based research, but communicated in a way which parents understand. Make the meeting fun, informative and one which taps into the emotion of being a sporting parent.

2) Play games with the parent’s

Having fun is a great way to learn for all ages and most parents I find to start off by being wary and defensive when you talk about their parenting. Playing games creates a safe environment in which you can stretch their thinking. This could be called ‘safe uncertainty’, and it is how I have successfully approached running parenting support for over 20 years. Make them feel safe and valued and permit them to explore the new.
(An example of a game can be found here)

3) Use the voices of the children.

The parents’ tips pack suggests in many places the importance of parents hearing what their children think. You could start this process with your athletes by asking questions which will help the parents gain more understanding and which they could continue to explore at home. The question “what is the best thing your mum/dad can do for you on game day?” would be a great place to start. Share the answers with the parents anonymously, email out the document and invite the parents to continue the conversation at home.

4) Think about your club/school environment and culture.

On page 13 it says to parents “Remember that even with the best intentions, your involvement and behaviours will be shaped by the sporting culture. Regularly reflect on your experience so that you can remain true to your goals and values over time.” This is brilliant advice. I often have sports teams complain about their parent’s behaviour, and then when we look at their culture, we see that the parents of mirroring the culture of the team. Have a process which enables you to reflect on how your environment effects parents and supports parents. Suggest that coaches and parents get together to explore the document. Asking where can we help you, the parents of our athletes?

5) Coaches CPD about working with parents.

Coaches have to juggle a number of relationships and often the one they are most under-resourced and supported in working with is their relationship with parents. If coaches were better equipped to support parents, then they would be able to have conversations which could encourage parents to engage with documents like this.

Supporting parents is not easy, and it is never a one of parents event or document. However, this document used as part of an overall strategy for supporting and effectively engaging parents will be a valuable resource. Part of an overall plan which supporting clubs as they work with those who have the most significant influencers on the character and mindset of their athletes, namely parents.

I look forward to seeing more of the resources from SportParentEU

If you need support on how to run effective, fun and supportive evidence-based parents meetings or coaches CPD on working with parents, then please do contact me.