Parent - Coach Relationships

By Dr. James Gels, From the Coach’s Clipboard Basketball Playbook
"Helping coaches coach better..."

From a coach's perspective... "The ideal team to coach is 12 excellent athletes... all orphans."

From a parent's perspective... "Anyone can boil water and coach basketball."

supportive fans
supportive fans

Parents should support the coach and the team. It's a natural thing that parents are most concerned about their own child. Most parents are good people who just want what's best for their child, as it should be. The coach, on the other hand, is first concerned about the team and secondly about individual players. A good coach cares and shows interest in each player individually, but the team always comes first.

As a parent, you cannot be objective. Most parents honestly believe their own son/daughter is better than he/she really is. It's rarely the other way around. They see all those uncontested shots made, with no pressure, in the driveway and flashes of game highlights in the past, but they don't know what is happening in practice.

Parents want to see their own child playing a lot of minutes, not sitting on the bench. On the other hand, coaches are trying to win. There is nothing wrong with wanting to win at sports... but not at all costs. So a coach is going to play those players that will help his team win, those players that are performing best in practice and have good attitudes.

This is especially true with high school varsity teams and "performance" type club (AAU) teams. Younger teams and "participation" type club teams will try to allocate playing time more evenly, although the better players will almost always play more.

Parents, don't be a "know-it-all. Criticizing other players to make your own child look better is always a bad thing. Undermining coaches, trying to make yourself look like a basketball authority, will only hurt your child. If it gets back to the coach, your child will probably play less. If you voice your opinions to your child, he/she will lose respect for the coach and his way of playing the game, and will often not work as hard in practices or games. There are many ways to play the game, many styles. The one you like is not necessarily any better.

Parents, don't bother or yell at the coach during games. We have a 24-hour rule wherein a parent can have a discussion with the coach, but not until the next day... certainly not right after a game when emotions are running high.

Sleep on it, and then talk the next day. Parents and the coach are rested, more receptive, rational and respectful. Often by the next morning, things look different, less important.

Parents, don't interfere with practices. Practice is like a class and the gym is the coach's classroom. The coach might allow you to watch, but keep a low profile.

supportive parents
Frank Kaminsky's mom

Playing time issues... we will discuss almost anything with parents, but not playing time. We make this policy known at the pre-season parent-player meeting. Parents cannot be objective, and do not know what is happening in practice. A player may discuss playing time with the coach, but not parents. That's our rule (high school level).

On the other hand, coaches must be willing to discuss other problems and issues with parents. Be willing to meet with parents, and be receptive and respectful. A parent should be able to talk to a coach much like talking with one of the child's teachers. Losing the support of parents has cost many a good coach his job. So be open, patient and understanding.

If a parent makes suggestions regarding strategy, plays, offense, defense, etc... let him "play" on and get his 2-cents in. Then thank him/her, even if you don't agree. If you want to get into explaining why you do things the way you do, OK... but it's easier just to thank him for his thoughts and leave it at that. Don't get into an argument.

When parents and a coach have a private discussion, listen to each other's concerns respectfully. Don't necessarily try to change each other's opinion, but just explain your thoughts and feelings regarding the issue... why as a coach, you are doing what you are doing. Or why, as a parent, you are concerned.

Coaches, remember that unhappy parents can make you very unhappy.

Coaching from the Stands from Coach Kevin Eastman: