From the JVA Office: A Pro-Active Approach to Handling Over-Involved Parents


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Tournament time has begun, which means club directors and coaches are beginning to identify the over-involved parents. It's easy to say that we just have to focus on the kids and ignore the parents, but as we all know, the parents are as much our customers as the players are; in some cases, even more so. Here are some practices your club can apply to establish a healthy relationship between your club, coaches, and parents.

First let's identify some signs of an over-involved, over-protective or over-bearing parent:

  • Frequently sending emails to coaches or club directors longer than a couple of paragraphs
  • Communicating with and coaching their kid during practice or games from the sidelines
  • Filming or taking stats on everything their athlete does in matches or practice
  • Requesting multiple meetings with the coaches
  • Displaying a pattern of dissatisfaction over multiple years

Since it's early in the season, we encourage clubs to be pro-active and continue to educate the parents on how to be positively involved in their son or daughter's playing experience. A few JVA Club Directors share how their club handles the over-involved parents, and have provided some practices/principles that they live by.

#1: Establish clear boundaries and processes at the beginning of the season

Place your conflict resolution process into the player and family contracts, and require every player and parent to sign. It can include dress code expectations, rules on practice and missed practice, conflict resolution procedures, very clear description of actions that are unacceptable and may result in player removal from the club, payment plans and responsibilities, and more. While parents may ignore what they read, it puts them in a position where there is no excuse for inappropriate behavior.

Review the guidelines during the initial player/parent meeting where you share your club's vision, goals, and the expectations that are placed upon parents and players if they are going to be a part of your club. Club leadership overseeing this club wide guideline places coaches in a position where they can be focused on coaching their players and the needs of the individuals and the team. It also lets parents and players know that your club has your coaches' backs.

#2: Stick to your guns and be consistent

If you say that breaking rule X will lead to removal from the club or loss of playing time, then don't waiver from that. If you tell parents not to coach their kids from the sidelines and they are ignoring that instruction, have a discussion about it. If you tell parents that you want the players to meet with the coach first, then when a parent sends an email requesting a meeting the first question that needs to be asked is, "Has your son/daughter sat down and spoken with the coach?"

"The instant we have multiple incidents where the parents or parent is over the top in their involvement typically me or Gabe or both of us will meet with them and express our concerns, perspective etc" shares A5 Volleyball Club Director Bob Westbrook.

Be consistent and persistent in your actions and hold the members of your club accountable to the practices you have set forth in your club. 

#3: Communicate, and then over communicate!

The simplest way to resolve most issues or to keep issues from arising at all is to communicate clearly throughout the season. If you have a player who you anticipate is going to struggle to earn playing time, tell them that and make sure he/she and the parents are on board and understand their goals for the season.

"We tell our coaches that even if there is nothing of importance to communicate, it's a great idea to shoot out an email once a week so that the parents know what is going on in practices" shares John Brannon from Carolina Union VBC.

You don't have to be over-detailed (i.e., "today we worked on proper shuffling footwork to get behind the ball and be able to transfer our weight to target while passing"), but even a three sentence email can help alleviate any distrust that may arise. This also helps make parents feel like they are a part of their kid's club life.

In a JVA sponsored webinar "Parents, From Problems to Assets" Tom Lowery suggests that coaches meet or communicate via email with parents and players prior to each tournament as to what their expectations and goals are for the team at that tournament. If the coach plans to use the event to try new systems or line-ups, challenge players that may not have been challenged before, give less-experienced players more experience, or playing time is going to be based on performance (maybe at a qualifier or national championship), then the coach communicates this ahead of time. The webinar, available for JVA members in the members educational resources, includes many excellent suggestions for clubs to build and maintain a positive relationship with the parents.

#4: Empower the Athletes

If you see an issue arising that needs to be addressed, schedule some time to talk with the player to discuss it. Also, encourage your players to address questions or concerns with you or the coaches directly. The players need to build trust with their coach(es) and also develop accountability. 

"Our goal is to always EMPOWER the athlete to do things for themselves, communicate with coaches about missed practices, tournaments, illness, injuries, playing time issues, etc. We want our players communicating with the coaches rather than the parents stepping in right away" shares Courtney Robison of KIVA (Lousville, KY).

"At the younger age groups 14s and under the first meeting can involve the parents and the player. That said, Suzanne, our 14-1s coach, insists the player speak for themselves first" adds Bob from A5 Volleyball Club.

#5 Find positive ways to engage the parents

Parents can play an extremely helpful role in your team or club whether it's team parents who are responsible for communicating with other parents, sorting through uniforms, organizing travel, planning snacks or meals for tournaments, there are ways you can keep your parents involved so they have a positive role.

"With parents that are over-involved in a positive way, we love to delegate them tasks so that they can help us with things that we just don't have enough time to do. These types of parents are great for organizing club events, helping hand out spirit wear and uniforms, etc" shares Stephanie Grieshop of Mintonette Sports.

Courtney from KIVA adds "every team has a team rep that handles team travel/booking hotels, taking care of coaches' travel and per diem money, etc. Other than that our parents stay more of fans!"

#6: Handle issues swiftly

There's nothing worse for a team or a club than letting problems fester. It creates distrust with the team, it creates bad chemistry on the court, it disrupts practice, and ultimately results in more losses . . . which leads to more frustration.

"For those parents that over-step, we tend to address it quickly with conversation. In our parent meetings, and handbook, we are very clear on what we expect from parents and players. If inappropriate behavior becomes a habit, the player and family will be dismissed from the club" adds Stephanie.

If there is an issue with a player, handle it. If there are problems with a parent that need to be discussed, don't wait. It can be difficult, but it will make the rest of the season go smooth!

#7: Let them go!

No matter what you do, there are always going to be situations in which there's nothing you can do to pacify an unhappy player or parent. And to those people, we say "Goodbye!" It happens every year, and it can be tough to do. But in the end, don't we all want players and families that want to be with us because they believe in what we are doing as an organization?

"We have removed players from the club because of the actions of parents and it sends a very, very loud message to the community. People know that we are a family friendly club, that we love our kids and that we love training, but they also know that we aren't going to let one player or parent highjack the whole situation" adds John from Carolina Union Volleyball Club.

"What this also creates a culture of trust and accountability. And believe it or not, in multiple instances over the years we have had conflicts that resulted in players being removed from the club one year, and the next year after acknowledging and owning their mistakes, we welcome the family back with open arms. This creates an even stronger bond of trust with both those families and others, because it also lets them know that we believe in restoration of relationships because this is more than just a business!"

All the volleyball clubs mentioned in this article are active members of the Junior Volleyball Association. The JVA is 100% focused on the growth of junior volleyball and the success of the clubs nationwide. With nearly 1,000 member clubs, the JVA reaches over 200,000 players, coaches, club directors, fans and administrators. To learn more about the JVA click here.

JVA member resources for clubs and coaches include templates and sample parent/player handbooks, as well as powerpoints to help clubs develop education for their club members. If you are interested in more resources for your club, click here to join the JVA today.

About the Author

Briana Schunzel is the JVA Director of Marketing and Partner Relations. Over the past five years Bri has enjoyed interacting with junior volleyball club directors and coaches on a daily basis, as well as building relationships with partners who share the same passion and goals of the JVA, and are all about giving back to the juniors. Bri has over 10 years of coaching experience at the grade school level all the way through collegiatel volleyball. She was a four year starting setter at Ohio University from 2001 to 2004 and continued her career competing professionally for RC Villebon 91 in Paris, France.


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