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Navigating the Sidelines: Steve Halls on Building Positive Parent Relationships in Football

As I embark on week three of my FA "Introduction to Coaching Football" qualification, the focus shifts to the intriguing realm of "Matchday Parent Relationships." Managing interactions with parents in football can be a delicate dance, even for seasoned coaches. However, when done right, parents and carers become invaluable allies in nurturing skillful players. Here are three simple strategies to get them onside.

1. Explain Your Approach: Setting the Stage for Understanding

Effective communication is the cornerstone of a successful coach-parent relationship. At the beginning of each season, laying out your objectives and methods is crucial. Clearly articulate your coaching philosophy, demonstrating your commitment to meeting the individual needs of every player. For instance:

"My aim is to address the unique needs of each player, fostering skill development while ensuring everyone feels included. To achieve this, I prioritise establishing a strong and trusting relationship. Our sessions will incorporate games designed to challenge each individual."

This upfront communication empowers parents to align with your approach willingly.

2. Be Consistent, Confident, and Clear: Handling Matchday Feedback

Matchdays often bring forth a barrage of feedback, especially from parents. Reacting to negative comments can be challenging, but it provides an opportunity to reinforce your coaching philosophy. Respond confidently and consistently to criticism, emphasising your commitment to the long-term development of the players:

"My goal is to encourage the team to solve problems independently. I won't intervene every time something goes wrong during a match. I want the players to develop their problem-solving skills. That's why we prioritise exploration and creativity in training."

Maintaining consistency, clarity, and confidence helps parents comprehend your player development approach. Once they grasp it, they can actively support and reinforce these principles with their children.

3. Get Parents Involved: Cultivating Curiosity, Creativity, and Commitment

Skilled players are characterised by curiosity, creativity, and commitment. Encourage these traits not just in your team but also in their parents and carers. Positive behaviors displayed by role models—parents, in this case—can significantly influence the players. Offer positive reinforcement, such as acknowledging a parent's resilient response to a missed shot:

"I observed your reaction after missing that first shot. You didn't get disheartened; instead, you tried even harder. Well done!"

Guide parents on supporting their children before and after a match, emphasising the avoidance of undue pressure. Discourage discussions about others' abilities, playing time, or critique of the coach's decisions. Post-match, shift the focus from a performance inquest to the child's experience, discussing what they enjoyed, their strengths, and how they applied the coach's principles.

Managing parents may pose challenges, but when done effectively, it becomes a powerful catalyst for player development. When everyone comprehends and supports your objectives, the team experiences more enjoyment, freedom, and opportunities for skill development. The collaboration between coaches, parents, and players forms the bedrock of a thriving football environment.

Best wishes,

Steve Halls

NexxtGen Football


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