By Coach Carrol
It‘s that time of year again when clubs are busy trying to secure their coaches for the upcoming season, and more than likely also encountering a very common problem – who is going to coach our kids? Every club would love to boast of having experienced coaches for their junior ranks, but the unfortunate reality for many is that they are not always afforded this luxury.
In my experience there are always at least two main types of coaches at a club: the mainstayers – the coaches with a great deal of experience who have coached every age group at the club, those who always step up if nobody else puts their hand up for a coaching role; then there are the parent coaches, willing to have a go despite not having a great deal of knowledge or experience, but ready to step up and help out all the same. But why is it, that each year, despite clubs having the best intentions to develop and mentor coaches to build a club’s coaching capacity, that we find ourselves struggling to encourage new and emerging coaches into junior coaching roles? We are talking about potential coaches who have a lot of knowledge and gameplay under their belts, who have a passion for the game that our young people would thrive on, who are the senior role models these kids have idolised from the sidelines for seasons.
The answer – parents!
Now, before your back stiffens, and your brow furrows, I am not for a minute suggesting all parents are at fault for our coaching shortages, what I am suggesting, however, is that the perceived pressures of dealing with parents, is enough to turn hordes of prospective applicants away! While many parents are productive contributors to their child’s netball experience, the negative effects of a small minority have unfortunately created a barrier for many who are otherwise ready to dip their toes in the coaching waters!
The question is, how do we encourage our emerging coaches to see past this?
Coaching kids can be a tough gig, there is no doubt about it! There is certainly no denying that some kids are difficult to coach, and likewise, some parents are challenging to deal with – after years of coaching, I am more than comfortable in saying that! But one thing I know for certain is that one of the most important and more valuable things we can do as junior coaches is to embrace our parents and wrap our arms around the ‘netball love triangle’ that is you, the child and the parent. That’s right, the parents! They can be one of your biggest obstacles, or your biggest allies – it’s up to you to decide!
I bet you’re thinking your club has it covered? You have a parent and player conduct form that you ask families to fill out at the beginning of the year to prevent any challenges arising in the future, right? Wrong! While I wholeheartedly agree that a pre-season meeting with parents is well worth the additional time and effort, a parent conduct form is only going to give you the tools to respond reactively if a challenge arises. I put it to you that the key to reducing unpleasant experiences and to working proactively in this space, is to spend time forming relationships with your parents (even the tough ones) – it is worth its weight in gold! Regularly communicate your coaching philosophy with them and make your direction for the season clear – help improve their understanding of what you are trying to achieve. Gaining the cooperation and support of your parent group is one of the best investments you can make as a junior coach – don’t make the mistake of keeping them at arm’s length!
So remember, when you take on a junior coaching role, you are not simply coaching kids, you are embarking on a journey as a trio, and parents are an inevitable part of the process. But don’t let that stop you from putting your hand up!
By embracing your parents, and working hard to establish connections and strong lines of communication, coaching juniors can be a very rewarding experience.