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Engaging Parents in Supporting a Lifelong Activity Habit | Coaching Youth (age 13-18)

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Coaching Youth (age 13-18)

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Posted in: Coaching Youth (age 13-18), General Forum

Engaging Parents in Supporting a Lifelong Activity Habit

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  • LizBurkinshaw

    How do you engage parents of both children and young people to help them keep coming back to sessions and develop a physical activity or sporting habit? Not just in talent and performance sport but also more recreational and community activities?

    What is your best piece of advice for engaging parent in building activity habit? 

    Infographics Credited to BelievePerform @BelievePHQ

    Infographic credit to BelievePerform @BelievePHQ

  • Ralph

    Liz, you've forgotten, parents know more than you!

    why need a code of conduct for parents?

  • LizBurkinshaw

    Thanks Ralph. I agree that parents are the experts in their own children. More coaches probably need to remember that though...

    Do you think coaches have a role with parents in order to stop drop out and for children and young people to develop a habit for life? 

  • Hunta223


    really interesting points from both of you there, I recently did some research into the effects of parents on the coaches. 

    One key issue that was raised was the lack of willingness for most clubs to succefully engage the parents within their child's sporting lives.

    Within this, was the lack of communication between the club and the parent, and through improved communication, both the coach and parent can be more aware of the athlete's progress.

    I agree with the code of conduct, most clubs need to set this from the start to try and find a healthy balance of input from the sidelines.

  • LizBurkinshaw

    Alice - did your research look at the wider involvement of parents and coaches working together to develop a habit of being active? 

    I've recently heard that mothers are the biggest influencers in children's lifelong engagement in participation and being active. 

  • Hunta223

    Hi Liz,

    It was based on interviews with elite level youth coaches and how parents played a role in their day-to-day coaching and any effects they then saw.

    I would agree with your point about parents, there has been lots of research of using on how parents' influence is likely to be a key indicator of children continuing in their sports. Unfortunately with that, parents have also been highlighted as a key factor for children's dropout in sports due to parental pressure. So I also looked at what methods these coaches used and how it then benefited their coaching practice.

  • Ralph

    Thanks for your reply and question, I do appreciate it.

    My earlier statement has misled you; parents in the most part, are not the expert in their child!

    I know it’s anecdotal but 35years coaching, having to deal with parents that know more than me about coaching their child, despite they are not qualified coaches, in any sport, including the sport their child has taken up, and they have never competed at any sport to any competitive level, yet feel fully qualified and experienced to tell us how to do our job?

    How do we help a child to become a highly trained athlete, whilst their clinically obese parent coaches us about fitness? Drop out rate is almost always down to the parent. Successfully engage with parents, Alice? There’s a reason clubs don’t want to. What club wouldn’t want the help from some pretty useful volunteers that can help the success of a club? It’s because Clubs and coaches that have had enough of what I’m talking about below.

     Managing parents unqualified, unrealistic expectations; their naivety, arrogance, narcissism and petty jealousy is the worst side of coaching, and means there’s a hidden underbelly a lot of coaches are unaware of. In fact, the better the coach is, the more they are unaware. Why? Through the coaches, smoozing, diplomacy and emotional and social intelligence, the parents behave; in front of their face. The stuff that I’ve seen behind the backs of some world class coaches, has at times, made me question the nature of human beings.

     In 35years, the top three juniors I coached; one is now European champion and competed in London and Rio, another is finishing off his PhD in physics, and the other went to LSE and is in a job where he is earning more than all the coaches reading this… combined. They all represented their country, of the (30,000 kids I’ve coached) those 3 went on to be the top three in terms of ranking. What’s my point, why those 3? All three had at least one parent that was a academic; of the 6 parents only one didn’t have a degree (and that’s back in the day, when a degree meant something) two parents including the Euro Champ, are clinical psychologists. Coincidence?

     2% of GB population go to private school, 26% of GB Rio athletes went to private school. That discrepancy is not just money based, some sports do require a lot of cash. Parental intelligence is a big factor to success and failure of children, even if they have the best coaches.

     There’s a website that offers, The 3 secrets to successful parenting, as you eagerly click onto the blog, you’re hit with the statement, unfortunately, nobody knows what those secrets are! Parenting is the toughest job because there is no instruction manual. There can’t be, humans are the most complex random thing we know.

     I once coached this kid, who on her first ball strike, without any coaching, hit this golf ball for miles, (relative to her age and size). Well, when I witnessed this my brain went, “Kurching”, wow I thought, I’ve found a talent here, a rough diamond, that’s going to be a world champion. Unfortunately, I started coaching her. Despite the ridiculous amount of experience and qualifications. I couldn’t help myself, she was going to be the next great thing. Rather than, give her the freedom to naturally find her way and have fun, I introduced right ways of doing things and by implication, wrong ways and by consequence, success and failure. And what makes it worse, to the very thing I love the most, my 3year old daughter. You coaches should line up in front of me and break my sword in half and strip me of my medals (assuming you know the historical reference?). Fortunately, I’m saved by the fact that, despite so many hundreds of coaches that read these blogs, very few tick like or even bother to get involved and comment. Apathy in coaches, who would have thought?

     Fortunately, I have just enough intelligence to know I’m an idiot, (conscious incompetence) and can over come a million year genetic programming, that IS going to blind me into thinking my little angel is the best thing since sliced bread, and therefore, I know more than her highly qualified coach.


    “And the thing about a successful life is that a lot of the time, our ideas of what it would mean to live successfully are not our own. They're sucked in from other people; chiefly, if you're a man, your father, and if you're a woman, your mother. Psychoanalysis has been drumming home this message for about 80 years. No one's quite listening hard enough, but I very much believe it's true.

    The nightmare thought is that frightening people is the best way to get work out of them, and that somehow the crueler the environment, the more people will rise to the challenge. You want to think, who would you like as your ideal dad? And your ideal dad is somebody who is tough but gentle. And it's a very hard line to make. We need fathers, as it were, the exemplary father figures in society, avoiding the two extremes, which is the authoritarian disciplinarian on the one hand, and on the other, the lax, no-rules option.”

    Alain de button

  • Hunta223


    You make some really interesting points there and I can completely understand where you're coming from. Problem parents were the reason I wanted to start that research in the first place.

    I know it sounds ideal world, but there are elite youth sports clubs that provide a "parent protocol" if you will, where from the start of the season the coaches sit down and talk through realistic expectations of the parents and provide rules then it provides a much better environment where the coaches and parents know where they stand.

    But I empathise with coaches and I understand completely that this will be unrealistic in the majority of cases. I just come from a stand point of if you're prepared to complain about a problem then you should be prepared to try and fix it as well.

  • Ralph
    On 15/09/16 9:44 AM, Alice Hunter said:

    I just come from a stand point of if you're prepared to complain about a problem then you should be prepared to try and fix it as well.

    one of my junior coaches sent me this, which i think answers your need to fix...

    Tax season came around and I asked my wife to give me the receipts she had for teaching supplies. The stack was enormous! And I was quite certain that most of it was not deductible. I rudely pointed out “the purpose of work is to make a profit!” She did not argue with me. She simply asked me to help her the next day at school and went to bed.

    When I came by that next afternoon, I found myself surrounded by the children doing projects and I jumped right in. I dropped by the school as often as I could, so the children were used to me at this point. But one young man always kept his distance. After the kids had gone, I asked Michelle why. She then revealed her dark secrets, the histories of the children in her classroom.

    These kids endured everything from true poverty to sexual abuse. Her list of questionable deductions started to make sense: granola bars, orange juice, cereal, milk, jackets, band aids and endless school supplies.

    The young man that would not approach me? She told me about him last. He had endured the worst. All the men in his life injured this child in ways that still bring tears to my eyes and a rage in my soul.

    Then she said: “He needs shoes.”

    The only thing I could mutter was: “What size?”

    These days we think we will find the answer to so many questions within the pages of a book or the folds of a standardized test, but this is the reality of many children in America. I wish stories like this were on the news or touted by politicians.

    Bret Wooten is a small business owner from Lewisville, USA.

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