As a Booster Club president depending on the time of the year or the outcome of the last meet, I am often inundated with complaints from parents. These complaints range from issues related to training to issues related to how the gym is running. Most parent concerns across youth sports usually go unresolved for a variety of reasons. In this blog, I am going to identify some of the primary reasons why parents issues go unresolved and hopefully provide some guidance on how to seek resolutions moving forward.
At the advice of a friend I am going to break this blog into two parts which will hopefully allow for “better digestion of the material,” her words not mine. Part one will revolve around classifying different types of issues, and part two will revolve around why problems aren’t getting resolved and how to get them fixed moving forward. Don’t skip to section two without reading part one because it will essentially be like watching season two of the Game Of Thrones without knowing what happened to Ned Stark.
Most issues from parents can be dropped into four buckets. These buckets are education, communication, expectations and the last is personality. The first step to resolving an issue is to identify which bucket the matter belongs. Identifying the bucket allows both coaches and parents to take the default resolution steps that apply to that bucket to begin to resolve the issue.
The education bucket.
Issues in this bucket are typically the easiest to resolve because ideally the more a parent gets educated regarding the sport, the more these issues begin to fix themselves. An excellent example of a problem that is always in this bucket especially with new parents is scoring. “How did my child get that score?” Parents are programmed to see their children’s potential because they factor in those yucky things called emotions which causes them to view situations subjectively instead of objectively. On the other hand coaches and judges are trained to see the reality of the situation. Every time my daughter is practicing one of her routines I think it is perfect until the coach walks over shaking their head and throwing their hands in the air. As I have become more seasoned and informed as a gymnastics parent, I can identify many of the technical flaws that went unnoticed when I was still a rookie gymnastics parent. As parents become more educated regarding the sport, the issues in this bucket tend to resolve themselves. If you are questioning is your problem is education related, ask yourself if your issue can be resolved if you had more data at your disposal. If the answer to that is yes, then most likely your issue is an education issue. Unfortunately, it is often incumbent on the parent to educate themselves to a certain extent. Coaches can often fill in the gaps in knowledge for parents, but it is unreasonable to ask them to teach you the whole world of gymnastics.
The communication bucket.
Issues in this bucket can be somewhat difficult to resolve because the first step in addressing these issues is to identify what side the problem is on. Are the coaches not communicating correctly with parents or are the issues related to parents not processing the information they are receiving successfully. What makes matters worse for issues in this bucket is often what needs to be said will often be looked at as politically incorrect. Imagine needing to tell a parent that their kid is a complete disruption in practice, they don’t listen, and they are overall having a negative impact on the team. How can you say that in a way that parents don’t get offended, you can’t? What coaches end up saying is “Miss <fill in the blank> your gymnast needs to listen and mature.” The parent walks away thinking that everything is fine with their behavior because the issues will resolve itself as the child gets older. Or imagine needing to tell a parent that the reason why their child isn’t meeting their expectations performance wise is that their child’s weight is an issue. What coaches want to say is “look, until your child starts eating better and loses some of that weight this gymnastics thing ain’t happening,” but parents aren’t trying to hear that. In this situation what coaches mistakenly end up saying is phrases like “your child needs to get stronger.” which parents blowoff as something that should be addressed by the coaches. What coaches should say and what would be exponentially more helpful to the parent would be something like this. “Miss <insert parent name here> no training in the world can overcome a lousy diet.” Unfortunately in situations like this, although there is communication the information that is being passed is not as effective as it should be because it is filtered to preserve the parent’s feelings. The below video albeit funny is a great example of what coaches go through when trying to communicate the reality of a situation with a parent regarding their child.
The expectation bucket.
If you have read any of my previous blogs you know it is critically important to ensure the coach, parent and athlete have the same level of expectations for the athlete’s future. Issues related to this bucket is often easy to identify but hard to resolve because they typically require parents to make tough choices. For example, if a parent looks at gymnastics as strictly something to do to keep their child from being a couch potato then getting with a coach who values winning and competition will not be a good fit. On the flip side if you look at gymnastics as an investment in your child’s future and her coach has the “I want everybody to have fun” mentality, then that also will not be a good fit. Finding the right situation for your gymnast is critical to resolving these type of issues and vital to their success overall. The reason why addressing problems in this bucket is challenging to solve because it usually involves parents having to find another gym because people don’t change situations do.
The bucket is personality.
Last, this bucket is easy to resolve. Get over yourselves parents. If you don’t like a coach, then leave and go to another gym. Just as it is unreasonable for a coach to ask you to change how you are as a parent, it is also unreasonable for you to expect a coach to change for you. The way you decide to parent in your household is entirely up to you but don’t expect coaches to follow suit.
Now that we have knocked out how to classify issues and the different type of buckets issues belong in. In the next blog, I am going to break down why parents issues don’t typically get resolved and how to go about getting them addressed in the future.