The USA Hockey Coaches Symposium this past week in Minnesota was an absolute blast and I had a great time while meeting a lot of coaches and learning many novel ideas. One idea I took from a speaker that pertained to youth sport coaches was the idea of including parents and getting them behind your back.
How many times in youth sport do you hear more about the parents than the atheltes? For the most part the comments I hear about parents are negative and they are in some way preventing you to coach, being obnoxious, or not embracing others on the team. One way to try and prevent this collapse from happening mid season and corroding all of the work you've done, I think there are some ways to combat this problem.
First, at the team's first meeting, there needs to be some kind of parent metting for you to establish what you want from the parents. Be honest, draw the lines for them loud and clear and if there are any objections to your style/intentions they need to be addressed or they can not be on the team. Risking negative parental involvement during the course of a season is something I do not want to even think about, but if you don't tell them what you expect you can't get upset later.
The parents can also be given some way to interact with the team in a positive way if you have any ideas for them (stats, helping out in practice, team gatherings, dinners after games, etc.). Again in this case, every parent must know their role. I think a lot of problems can generate simply because the parents do not feel like they have any control over the team, so assigning a task should give them something to do and keep them out of your hair.
If there are EVER any problems with playing time or conflicts, I always want the athelte coming to me first hand rather than hearing these things from a parent. This issue can sometimes be restricted with younger atheltes but after about 5th grade I think the athelte needs to be able to talk with their coach about these issues.
I hope this helps for some of you who have had issues in the past, remember the key lies in making them feel accepted and convincing them to get on board with your coaching because it is in the best long term interest for the athelte.