Coaching the Parents Part II
By Chris Beerman
Last blog I touched on parental involvement in club volleyball and my perspectives on that issue. Since that article, I've had a couple parent meetings regarding some team issues. The meeting started with a few very passionate comments about the level intensity during practice along with player instruction and how that was manifested in the team's match performances. This particular team had been practicing with less than 100% effort and in their most recent tournament, played hard but came up short at the end of each match. The parents' main take was that the coach needed to push the players harder, the players were not being taught the game, and they were not improving. Sitting there at the meeting listening to the parents' impassioned reasoning, I immediately flashed back to my last blog and chuckled to myself--I'm sure many of the club director veterans who had read my blog (if any actually had ?!), also had a pretty good chuckle. I had painted a pretty rosy and probably naÃ¯ve, picture here at Lex United, and maybe I just didn't have enough experience to be taking the positive opinion I espoused in the last blog. Click here to read the last blog post "Coaching the Parents."
But then I snapped back into the current, and after listening to all the different takes on the state of the team, I realized that this wasn't a coach issue; it was a parent-player issue. I had walked by this team's practice many times to observe how the players and the coach. Most of the time I saw a fairly talented, athletic group of 16 year olds going through the paces at about 70% of their capability. I also wanted to watch and listen to the coach and determine if there was enough teaching, motivation, intensity and respect coming from the instructor. I heard the coach say really good things, saw some nice drill ideas and segments and heard a lot of instruction and intensity relative to this coach's personality. I walked away thinking, these kids have got to figure out why they're doing this.
Back to the parent meeting, I turned the conversation towards their own children and what they were personally doing to improve themselves, how hard they worked in practice, how much they were committed to volleyball and finally, what their long-term goals were for the sport. The parents began self-evaluating their own kids and what began to emerge was the parents perhaps caring about the outcomes more than their daughters did. Parents are always competitive because they have experienced life and know how hard the real world is, how competitive life is, and how hard you have to work to achieve success. These players were going through the motions, blaming the coach and not taking any accountability for what THEY were GIVING to the process. In my experience as a coach, if a player cares about getting better, they will. The players who repeat the same mistakes every day, nod their head but aren't listening and never seem to grasp concepts are really just there for some other reason and not truly because THEY want to be there.
After getting off to a heated start, the meeting turned into a very reasoned, thoughtful conversation about player motivation, a coach's responsibility to motivate and inspire, and parents coming to the realization that perhaps they want it more than their kids. The sudden reality of this aspect of youth sports is very difficult for parents who have watched their tall, athletic daughters dominate the 4 year old soccer team, the nine year old basketball team, the middle school 200 meter track race, and the 13 and under volleyball tournaments. As the parents sat there and began to process the fact that their daughters might be more interested in other activities and are growing away from volleyball, I brought them back with some positive reinforcement. 1). If they are struggling, talk to the coach directly about the problem and what the resolution can be. 2). Parents get off their backs. Don't hover at practice, scowling at their mistakes or effort; you are causing them to effectively shut down. Yes, getting to the older age groups, 16's, 17's and 18's brings more pressure, expectation and competition, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't still be fun. Not every girl wants to play in college, so if that's not the goal, let's not say that it is. There is a place for everyone in this great sport, and it's crucial not to force all of our players to choose the same path because it's what they are SUPPOSED to want. Doing so only makes for lethargic, stressed out teams who don't care.
There are different ways to motivate, but parents allowing their daughters to play for the reasons that THEY want to play for is critical for the healthy attitude and enthusiasm of a club player. Every kid is different and by the age of 16, parents have to begin to let their daughter forge her own path. Guide the player, encourage the player and make sure the player knows whatever she decides to pursue, her effort and how hard she competes will be tied directly to her success. As a post-script to the meeting, I've noticed fewer parents at the practice, more intensity from players, a lot more smiles, and better connection and communication between players and coaches. Being a parent is not easy and letting your kid grow up isn't easy either, but I'm proud of this parent group for having the discipline to let their daughters tackle this on their own, and in effect, help them take a positive step towards personal responsibility and accountability.