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4 Must Haves for Coaches

4 Must Haves for Coaches

Joe Rice

I originally posted this article on the SportsFitness Network site a few months ago.

Many articles have been written about the importance of coaches reaching out and communicating with the parents. A pre-season meeting is now the norm as well as the use of social media and other technologies to keep parents posted of any changes and or issues related to the team.  So while there has been this increase in communication there still needs to be some boundaries set as to what topics can be discussed. Coaches should develop their “Non-Negotiables” and ensure parents understand and respect them. Here are some examples of Non-Negotiables?

Other Players

Under no circumstances should coaches ever discuss other players with parents. Parents will want to know, “Why is Pat playing more than my kid?”, or “Why isn’t Sandy playing another position instead of my kid?” Coaches should stay focused on discussing that parent’s kid and refrain from talking about the other kids. As soon as you start to talk about another player, sure enough their parents will hear and confront you about why you are talking about their child.


As soon as you start to allow parents to voice their opinion on what defenses/offenses the team should be playing, you open yourself up to constant criticism. You are the coach and should be trusted to do the best job you’re capable of with the support of the players and parents. You’re the one who spends the most time with the players and has evaluated their strengths and weaknesses. You understand the goals and philosophy of the program. About 20 years ago I got into a heated debate with one of my 8th grade basketball parents after he challenged the logic of playing man to man defense against stronger teams. I had to enlighten him that the varsity coaches wanted all teams to play this defense to best prepare them for varsity. Plus, since all of my players played other sports, learning the fundamentals of man to man could carry over to those sports. This parent was only focused on winning and still disagreed and remained critical of my decision. This was a conversation that I should not have had in the first place if I had made this one of my Non-Negotiables.

Playing Time

There may be some degree of how this might be discussed. Some coaches may have a process while others will make the topic 100% non-negotiable. Coaches should never tolerate the after-game ambush of a parent demanding to talk after a game about playing time. After a game emotions are too high and that meeting will not be productive. Parents may also call to ask legitimate questions about the schedule or travel but then sneak in the real purpose of the phone call, “Coach, while I have you on the phone…”

At the pre-season parents meeting playing time should be the focus of discussion.  Coaches need to share the expectations of earning playing time and the process to discuss ways to increase playing time. This process needs to be crystal clear. Make sure the parents understand this process and perhaps require them to also sign a contract/agreement as to the parent’s expectations. The process usually has the player speaking to the coach and discussing ways to improve. In a previous article, I wrote about using the ‘222 Method of Communication’ to make sure that the lines of communication between coach and player were clear and using this method will enable these types of discussions to happen. If the player still has issues over playing time (in actuality, if the parent still has issues about playing time after their child has talked with the coach) then a parent meeting will happen determined by the coach. This meeting should occur after a practice and should be in a location of the coach’s choosing. Have the parents come to you. Having another coach or athletic director in attendance will help set the tone. Make sure to follow the set process.

Referees and Officials

When coaches start to complain to parents and players about officials or get into discussions about how poor the officiating has been, they are basically focusing blame away from the players and themselves.  They are setting their players to be “victims” and to display poor sportsmanship. Officials are outside a coach’s control yet too many coaches and parents are obsessed with their performance. Imagine a tough call at the end of a game which determines who wins. It is very easy to blame the loss on the official and that is a typical knee-jerk reaction from parents. However by blaming the official, are we not holding our players accountable? Parents tend to forget about all of the missed shots or lack of effort and hustle. Coaches need to take the high road and accept responsibility.


While there are has been increases in player-coach-parent communication there still needs to be certain topics that will not be discussed. Coaches should develop their own list of “Non-Negotiables” and share them with parents. This will help to set the tone and avoid uncomfortable conversations. What are your “Non-Negotiables”?

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