70% of kids drop out of organized sports by age 13. As parents, what we say during the game and especially on the ride home heavily influences how our kids feel about their experience. Are we focusing on having fun versus winning? Are we coaching from the sidelines when we are not actually the coach? Do our kids feel like mistakes are learning opportunities?
I think we’ve all been on the sidelines and witnessed parents yelling at referees or worse. The only way to curb bad behavior is to have the coach set clear expectations of parent expectations. And to enforce this code of conduct? My daughter’s soccer coach would call a mandatory meeting for all parents after a practice every time there was an infraction. This was extremely inconvenient for the parents of kids in carpools. After one such meeting, parents would remind other parents on the team of the rules during games because no one wanted to attend more meetings about the Parent Code of Conduct.
Parent Code of Conduct
Setting clear parent expectations at the start of the season goes a long way into creating a positive team atmosphere. As part of your Team Orientation Packet, include a Parent/Athlete Code of Conduct and have both the parents and athlete sign an agreement. This is an opportunity to set clear expectations and goals for the team, both athletes and parents. You might want to start with overall goals such as:
- Having fun.
- 100% of kids on the team singing up to play this sport again next season.
I think it’s important for parents to know that girls drop out of sports six times the rate than boys according to the Center for Disease Control, and thus the goal of having fun and continued participation are actually quite ambitious goals. But how do kids define “fun” with regard to sports?
In a 2014 George Washington University study, 9 of 10 kids said “fun” is the main reason they play sports. Out of 81 reasons kids said sports were fun, “winning” ranked as 48. Young girls gave “winning” the lowest ratings.
In the 2014 George Washington University Study, the top six things that kids find the most fun in sports are:
- Trying your best.
- When the coach treats the player with respect.
- Getting playing time.
- Playing well together as a team.
- Getting along with your teammates.
- Exercising and being active.
“Winning” ranked 48th out of 81 factors defining fun in sports by kids. In young girls, “winning” ranked even lower. It’s clear that “having fun” is not related to “winning” in the eyes of the athletes. Parents need to understand that pressure to perform creates a negative environment and is a high contribution factor towards kids quitting sports before high school.
That’s where a Parent Code of Conduct can set expectations and even educate parents on what’s important to you, as the coach.
For more, please get How to Coach Girls book out March 2018.