DEALING WITH DIFFICULT PARENTS
How to deal with difficult parents...
You know the parents... overbearing, overly competitive, and overly engaged in
your decisions as a coach.
Dealing with complaints about playing time, who gets to play what position,
sportsmanship issues, etc.
No matter how knowledgeable, fair, or kind you are to your team, you can
probably expect an irate parent or two to crop up during the season. Here are a
few tips to help when dealing with these types of situations.
1. Don't discuss the issue at the game
The first thing the coach should avoid is discussing the problem with the parent
at the arena, especially if he/she is visibly upset. Use the 24-hour cool down
rule as a starting point.
Cooler heads always prevail.
2. Schedule a separate time/venue to have the discussion
Rather than discuss the problem then and there, the coach should agree to meet
or telephone the parent at a mutually convenient time to discuss the complaint
or issue at hand.
By doing this, you avoid giving the parent an audience, allow the him/her to
'cool off', and give yourself time to prepare an appropriate response to their
3. Be an active listener
When you eventually talk to the parent, one of the most important things you can
do is be an active listener. Doing things like taking notes, maintaining eye
contact and nodding to acknowledge you have heard what the parent is saying are
4. Don't interrupt
Even if parents raise their voices or their stories are not fact-based, the
coach should avoid interrupting. By interrupting a parent, you risk inflaming
the situation and could potentially provoke a confrontation.
5. Don't get defensive
The coach should avoid defending or justifying their action. Such behavior at
this point will only make the situation worse.
6. Show empathy
Respond to their concerns with statements like "I'm sorry that you feel your
child has been treated unfairly". This will help the parent to understand
his/her problem is being taken seriously. They are likely to be calmer and more
willing to find a solution.
7. Clarify the problem
This can be achieved by asking probing questions. This helps both parties to
focus on the problem (not personalities), stick to the facts, and avoid being
caught up in extraneous (off-the-point) issues.
8. Offer a range of solutions
A lot of times, parents just want their feelings to be heard and understood. If
they want more, try to offer a range of solutions. Or better yet, ask if they
have a solution in mind. This demonstrates a willingness to work together to
solve the problem. It's important to avoid making promises that you can't keep.
Explain to them what you can and cannot do.
9. Get closure
Ideally, you will have given the parent a number of options and agreed upon on a
mutual course of action. At this point, it's appropriate to end the meeting.
It should conclude with three things:
* Leave the parent with a closing action statement (e.g.. 'I'll get on to that
* Thank the parent for their interest (no matter how unpleasant the meeting).
* If follow-up is required, tell them when you will contact them ('I'll ring you
This will leave the parent feeling as though their complaint has been heard, and
the parent-coach relationship will be strengthened.
10. Leave the door open
There will be cases, however after this whole process where you will not be able
to give the parent the response they are looking for. It is important in these
circumstances that the coach leave the door open for the parent, e.g.. 'If there
is ever anything else, please come to me'. By doing this, the parent will at
least feel that his/her complaint has been taken seriously, and the coach-parent
relationship, however strained, will remain intact. Not doing this could allow
the problem to fester... and the parent could attempt to damage your reputation