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How can parents participate but not participate?

Updated: Oct 4, 2023

If I had a nickel for every time I hear that a club director or coach feels that parents are overwhelming...

Coaching is not sexy. I doesn't pay well, and honestly, coaches coach for the love of the sport, or the love of teaching. It is so gratifying to see a kid struggle and overcome the struggle, to see the beaming feeling of excitement when they finally grasp a skillset. Coaches are teachers, or at least the good coaches are good teachers (in my opinion). Coaches role is not just teaching a skill set of physical demands, but coaches also teach communication (self advocacy) , emotional regulation (frustration, motivation), and social development (being a good teammate, confidence) The reality is that parents are coaches too, but just in a different lane!

I have had my share of angry parent conversations. I can tell you that 95% of the time the theme of the challenging situation was communication!

The reality is that parents want to be involved! It's coming from a place of support and love. I speak from experience! I loved watching my kids play. I also loved participating where I could.

THAT is the challenge! Where can parents participate and A) not get in the way of their kid's athletic experience B) not get in the way of the coach C) not project their own opinions and frustrations.


1st-Let parents participate with perameters! Be crystal clear on what that means!

2nd- Give them a space to celebrate with their kid! Be crystal clear on what THAT means.

I hear too often in parent club onboarding meetings (after tryouts/welcome meeting) for club parents, you know, that meeting that coaches and directors share all of what parents are not allowed to do: don't talk to coach, don't coach the kid from the sidelines, don't be in practice. don't-don't- don't, oh and sign here to confirm that you are aware of the rules. I get it, and it is TOTALLY WARRENTED! However, what CAN parents do? You mean all we do is cough up the thousands of dollars for our kids to have an athletic experience and then nothing? No thanks? It takes a village? No Parenting athletes is hard? No support on how WE can have fun? NOPE!

Recently I worked with a volleyball club and brain stormed on just that! How can we (I was part of the think tank session) get parents to participate but not participate. If we do that, everyone (kids included) can create a positive parent culture AND a positive team culture, AND a positive club culture! Everyone wins...quite literally! When you feel good, you play good.

So my parting suggestion is, if you are involved with a club that has lots of "don'ts", honor that, because there is a reason, but offer up ways that you can be involved. Team cheering section, team t-shirts that support your daughter (not just YOUR daughter, but all of the kids), monthly "coffee talks/huddle ups" that involve coaches and parents so they are in the know (not just emails). Everyone has a role. All of us in a way are shaping the kids.

It takes a village! It really does!

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