I received an email on managing passionate parents and I thought it would be a good topic for a newsletter. Let’s face it, as a soccer administrator (and many times volunteer) who strives to provide a safe, healthy, and fun environment for the community’s youth to play the sport of soccer, there is no sight or sound more pleasing than the enthusiastic cheer of passionate parents providing POSITIVE reinforcement to the players. Conversely, there is no greater nightmare for an administrator or club than an overly negative and critical parent who has seemingly lost control.
Every youth soccer club in the world must successfully balance an atmosphere filled with positive encouragement with a culture of respect and discipline. A culture that is vital in fostering child growth and creative risk taking. While the club certainly cannot control all the factors and actions of the members, there must be an understood club culture in place specifically noting that negative actions by parents and spectators in any form or facet will not be tolerated. The goal here is not just upholding the reputation of the club, but providing a positive learning environment where players are able to take risks and succeed or fail without repercussions from their parents or WORSE…a teammate’s parent.
A simple way to do this is place your club's policy of good sportsmanship and the consequences of violating these laws in all areas frequented by parents and players. Several highly visible areas where the policy should be clear and prevalent are on the website, on club generated and coach generated emails (on the bottom/top as a tagline) and around the club’s sports complex. This is of supreme importance when striving to uphold the sanctity and safe atmosphere of the club culture. Signs upon entry to the parking area, at concessions stands, as well as scattered about the complex, will drive home the point that out of control parents will not be tolerated under any circumstance and that adherence to rules is beyond contestation. However, these don’t have to be negative signs. They can be centered on confirming the good behavior that you know the parent will display at there next game…i. e. “Have Fun and Cheer Loud for Our Teams!” “Don’t forget to sing OLE on goals!” “Positive Reinforcement brings Goals!”
While many clubs require parents to sign good sportsmanship agreements at the beginning of the season (FANTASTIC IDEA!), it is also a good idea to reward teams and parents who continually exude the positive characteristics which the club promotes. Use them as examples during meetings, highlight them in emails and press releases and praise them on your website. As a club administrator you have to allow parents to demonstrate their enthusiasm for the players on the field. The parents who are able to do this and be a positive role model to the kids should be recognized as to encourage others to do the same.
As an administrator you hold your parents in the highest regard (most of the time!). While 99 out of 100 of your parents are “class acts” there is always a “bad apple” which can ruin it for the rest. When this parent begins to violate the clubs policies, the club must take action. The club must follow its outlined consequences so that it can protect and reaffirm the club culture and foster a positive growth environment. As long as the club is proactive and consistent with its stance on fostering growth, then the club will maintain a healthy atmosphere for all!