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Rick Davis On Coaches Managing Sports Parents' Behavior

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Rick Davis, a PCA National Advisory Board Member, is a retired professional soccer player and former member of the U.S. National Team. He played with the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League, and was named Player of the Year in 1979. Davis was elected to the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2001 and served as Executive Director of AYSO.

Part of coaching youth soccer and other youth sport is managing the players' parents' behavior. Davis relates his own experiences dealing with over-enthusiastic, and sometimes problematic, sideline parents and guardians. First and foremost, he starts with a pre-season parent meeting. This helps them understand how their behavior can either encourage and support the team or distract from the experience if not appropriate. This also helps avoid parent/coach conflict during the season. Set expectations early, let parents know that yelling on the sidelines is not acceptable.

Davis also tries to set an example as the coach. He brings a chair and calmly sits during the games. He calmly focuses on teachable moments and talks to the players on the sideline. He makes sure that at no point during the game do parents see him yelling, other than in an encouraging way. This sets the standard for parents watching the game on the other sideline, and hopefully makes clear what is expected.

Finally, if parents are still behaving in a way that’s distracting or negatively impacting the team, Davis will videotape them and let them see how their behavior looks and what impression if leaves on players and other fans. Hopefully parents come to an understanding of appropriate behavior before this is necessary, but sometimes they lack the recognition to make behavioral changes. Whatever it takes, managing sports parents’ behavior is a component of coaching youth teams and maintaining the right culture.