Every year, we the coaches from all over the world dedicate our time to teach other parents children how to play the game of basketball but on rare occasions, we have to deal with an angry parent as well.
The majority of parents appreciate this goodwill act, but occasionally you’ll find a couple of people that don’t see it this way. Very often the love they have for their child is going to blur the real vision and they are going to believe that their child is being treated unfairly.
Dealing with difficult and angry parents in sports is the part of the job and is the thing that we as coaches have to do from time to time.
The first thing that you need to do as a coach is to have a pre-season meeting with all parents and players together, where you are going to present to everybody your plan. That is something that we already have an article about, and you can read it if you click on the link:
1. Be approachable
A pre-season meeting is a good time to start creating bonds. If you want to be an approachable coach, that means that you are going to be open to talk about anything anytime. For these kinds of talks you need to be well prepared, you need to have all the information, and you have to develop criteria for your team and not deviate from it. Same rules have to apply for everybody without exception.
Always make sure to end the meeting by letting both parents and players know that if they ever have anything to talk about they do not need to hesitate. Give them your phone number, and it would be best to have a separate phone just for the team so when it rings you know that it is something about the basketball.
2. Discuss the distribution of playing time
A most important topic to discuss with both players and their parents is how you’re going to distribute playing time.
This can be solved in two ways:
1. Distribute the time evenly every game regardless of talent
2. Set up criteria.
The first solution is often used in youth basketball teams but even then there will be some trouble.
If you have got an older, more mature, group and if you are coaching at a serious level, let the players and parents know that playing time will be based on talent and work ethic so some players might not get much playing time in crucial games.
The key to maintaining the discipline and order both in the team and with parents is to conduct the statistics about everything. Have the assistant coach write every point, miss, jump assist, every statistical column has to be filled, both at practices and games. And be strict. If there is a player that is shooting better, he has to have more minutes. If there is a center that has more rebounds, give him more playing time. I like to record everything. I like to analyze even some of the advanced metrics like true shooting % and contested shots %.
Make sure to let the parents and players know that during easy games, you will make sure to give the less talented players extended minutes so that they can develop into better players… And make sure you do it!
7 Steps to use if you encounter problems with parents
1. Never talk to someone that’s yelling at you
First and foremost, never ever talk to someone when they’re yelling at you. That is not the way that two human beings should communicate. You’re giving up your time and wasting your energy to help out their kids so you deserve more respect than that.
This doesn’t happen too often anyway and even when it happens, that parent usually does not know much about basketball. In these situations, all those statistics that you have written over the course of time are going to come handy, and that you can discuss it after the game. With a calm voice let them know that you’d be happy to talk about whatever their concern is when they’ve calmed down and faced to face all alone.
2. Discuss their problem at a later time
If a parent gets frustrated with you during the game and walks over and demands you talk to them during the game, kindly let them know that the talking can be done after the game when both of you can sit down and talk about it alone, without anyone else interrupting. And, if you don’t have time to talk to them that day, make sure to schedule a meeting some other time.
Scheduling a meeting for the next day or later is the best option that you have just because it will give time to both yourself and the parent to calm down and think about the conversation, rather than have a conversation that is driven with anger. The picture is always more clear after a good night sleep.
3. Get someone else to sit in on the meeting
I always get my assistant coach and the player to sit at the meeting. This way you are showing to everybody that there are no secrets in the coaching -player/parent relations, so the benefits of this approach are:
1. Clarifying facts that may arise during the meeting: There are 2 reasons why is somebody playing more and somebody is playing less. It means that one player is just playing better and his stats are showing it, or, one of the two is no behaving like he should (bad effort on practices, bad behavior, bad team relations, bad teammate...)
2. A witness in case anything happens (bad words, threats, physical attacks...)
3. To recall comments made in the meeting at a later time if needed.
4. Hear them out but Without interrupting them
The parent, or just any other person, wants to feel like they’re being heard. If you're constantly interrupting and dispute them while they are making their comments mid-conversation, the only thing you’re going to achieve is to make them angrier than they already are.
Hear them out all the way through before you start explaining to them why are you making the decisions as they are. You really do not want to make the situation worse than it already is.
5. Body language
Good body language is very important because the parents will feel better if they see that you are all in about their problems.
Don’t ever sit back in your chair with your arms crossed looking through the window. This is just going to look like you are arrogant and stubborn and will only infuriate the parent further no matter if the parents are all wrong and are just saying a bunch of nonsense.
Sit forward and look them straight in the eyes. Nod with your head a bit when they’re speaking to show that you understand.
6. Keep your composure even if they don’t
Even if they come in and attacking you for reasons you don’t understand or are not sane, it’s important to make sure you keep calm. You don’t want to get into a war with them because all those bad words that you are going to say to them, even if you are right, you are going to regret in the future.
If you see that the way they’re speaking to you is unacceptable, calmly and as polite as you can, ask them not to talk to you that way, and if they continue to do so, end the conversation with telling them to come back when they cool off and have a will to talk politely.
7. The best way to respond
Once you have let them have their turn talking, it is your turn to respond.
Be true to them, be consistent, back up your reasons with numbers, have your assistant confirm the story.
Do not be stubborn and arrogant if you find out that you have made mistakes. Sometimes you win and sometimes you learn. Maybe there are some good things that the parent is saying. Acknowledge everything that they have said and make the step by step analysis of their claims.
Make sure to let them know that you agree with the good things if there are some.
Acknowledge their son/daughters strengths and quality before you tell both of them that parent what they need to work on in order for their children to improve.
Dealing with an angry parent is not an easy task to do. There are some people that just have other view and plans for their children and there will be nothing that you can say or do to change their perspective. You cant be a good coach, but you can have principles that you will respect, and that is the only thing that you can do.