Tom offers us a n excellent opportunity to move past the disagreements about why my child hasn’t been selected. Hope you enjoy his 500 word letter.

Dear Coaches,

You are doing a fantastic job. Organising your team, getting the kit ready, answering late night messages and calls, setting up at the venue, driving here there and everywhere, and that is all before we start talking about the session you are delivering or game you are taking the team for. And I hear you, it is tough. I know you aren’t in this for the recognition or winning awards, championships and trophies. I know you are in this for the young people that you coach and giving them an amazing experience in your sport.

When we speak, I know that there is an elephant in the room, some people who leave you going grey (that is if you have any hair left after pulling it all out!) – parents. What a paradox hey – without them, we wouldn’t have any children to coach, and with them, they can make coaching really challenging. Can we try and look at this differently in the next few weeks and months. Rather than seeing parents as challenge, let’s see our relationship with them as an opportunity. A chance to work together to be the most amazing support team for the young people in your group. If we can help parents understand the role that they can play, then it will allow us to ‘go big’ on the coaching. So I’m going to offer a way forward – past the disagreements, discussions about “why hasn’t my child been selected”, beyond the expert-from-the-sideline narrative. Open a dialogue, use the passion from parents as rocket fuel for your coaching, align and start to see how you can work together to make the experience of the young people game-changing.

Here you go: Define a role for the parent. Beyond just being a parent with misdirected enthusiasm. The role is this: Be the best support team that your child could ever wish for. Unconditional support, love and kindness. A sounding board for when things don’t go great, and a beam of energy when things are going well. If we can help parents do this, then it lets us go strong on the coaching. It will give us freedom as coaches to make the experience of practice and games as good as it can be.

It might take some practice, and it will certainly involve engaging with parents to get this moving – but from a simple conversation you could end up on the same page, rather than in a different library! It might not work for every parent, but what have you got to lose! Imagine the power of a group of parents supporting their children, and you getting on with doing the things that give you energy as a coach. This will look different in every group, so play with it, make it work for you, but please try it, because the positive outcomes will certainly help your experience as a coach, and the experience for the young people as good as it can be.

Good luck and go well, you’re doing amazing!


With over 20 years of experience working across the athlete development pathway as a coach, coach developer and transformational leader, Tom has extensive experience of creating memorable and impactful learning environments, designing and implementing athlete and coach development pathways, and leading the delivery of game-changing strategy. Tom has worked in football and sport across a variety of levels shaping the future of coaching.

Social Media: @thomaswhartley