Q&A: How to Deal With Problem Parents
Dale Asks: How do you cope with parents who create problems during the travel hockey season? There are some parents who try to coach their kid from the stands and some who complain about everything from the amount of playing time, the coach and drills, to a multitude of other items. It also appears that these parents complain in front of their kids which results in the player having a bad attitude. These parents make it difficult for the rest of the team. Please discuss the responsibilities of the coaches in this type of situation and what, if anything other parents can do. In a long travel season, one bad parent can really disrupt a team.
Answer: At the start of the season, the head coach and his assistants should schedule a team question and answer meeting with parents and players. Doing this alone could, quite possibly, reduce the number of problem parents.
This information sharing meeting will break the ice and give the coaches a chance to answer everyone’s questions and explain their coaching philosophy, including: team goals and objectives, rules and consequences, earned or equal ice time, on and off ice practices, length of shifts, power play and penalty killing make-up, tournaments they intend to enter, cost for the season and anything else that seems reasonable.
Both parents and players should have the opportunity to ask the coaches questions. If the parents and players agree with the coach’s philosophy and other input, they can choose to join the team. But, if they disagree, they still have the opportunity to gracefully decline.
This meeting is important because it eliminates major surprises for parents and players during the season. However, having said that, some problems, concerns and situations will arise during the season - they normally do.
The team should have a protocol in place to address periodic issues. This might include scheduling a private meeting with the head coach and the parent or player to discuss the situation. A parent liaison could be appointed to set up such a meeting or bring the issue to the coaching staff to address.
If a resolution cannot be found and the player or parent continues to disrupt the team, the only course of action for the coach is to bench the player or even suspend him. If the situation is so serious and cannot be resolved, a last resort would probably be to release the player (and parent).
Editor’s Note: Thank you to John Shorey for this answer.
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