Helping Coaches Talk with Parents

March 20, 2019

By Dr. David Hoch, CMAA, CIC

There is an often-used expression in high school athletics that athletic administrators are the coaches of coaches and this is right on the mark. In this role, it is important to provide guidance and help with respect to coaches having conversations or meetings with parents about problems or their concerns. These types of interactions with parents can often be tricky, delicate and occasionally difficult. The following are some suggestions that you should share with your coaches.

They should:

  • Always wait 24 hours before calling or meeting with a parent who is disgruntled or upset. This gives both parties a chance to let the emotion subside and to be able to approach the conversation in a more calm and civil manner.

  • Gather relevant materials – team rules, codes of conduct, attendance records, game statistics or whatever – to support your decision or approach which you have taken with the parent’s son or daughter. It would be wise to photocopy any document to provide a copy for the parent.

  • Explain that yelling and any use of inappropriate language by the parent will not be tolerated during the conversation or meeting. Point out that the phone conversation or meeting will be terminated if proper decorum isn’t maintained. This is a required ground rule.

  • Always listen first to the parent’s concern or details of their perceived problem. This allows parents to vent and this goes a long way toward settling some difficult situations. Often parents want to be heard and this approach allows them to do just that.

  • Mention to parents that issues or questions related to playing time or who starts a game should be addressed by an athlete going to the coach. This is an opportunity for the coach to be able to explain what the athlete has to do to improve and what role he or she fills on the team. Parents should not be involved in this discussion until after the athlete made this attempt or perhaps trying several times.

  • Always close the conversation or meeting with, “Thank you for sharing your concerns or questions.” Regardless of the possible adversarial or accusatory nature of the parent’s approach, this statement ends the interaction in a positive, disarming manner.

  • Be reminded that they always have to be polite, composed and calm even in the face of unreasonable demands or even threats by parents. By the nature of their position, coaches are professionals and, therefore, they always have to act as such. They cannot lower themselves to the level of the misguided, unreasonable parent.

  • Never punish or negatively react with respect to student-athletes for the poor behavior of their parents. Athletes always have to be treated fairly and based upon the effort and skills they demonstrate in practice.

While most parents are good and supportive, you should help your coaches to deal with those few who are misguided and problematic. If you can provide proactive approaches and techniques to use, listen to their concerns and provide sound advice, you can help your coaches greatly with this difficult aspect of coaching.


David Hoch retired in 2010 after a 41-year career as a high school athletic director and coach. In 2009, Dr. Hoch was honored as the Eastern District Athletic Director of the Year by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education. He was also presented with the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association Distinguished Service Award, and in 2000 he was named the Maryland State Athletic Director Association’s Athletic Director of the Year. Dr. Hoch has authored over 460 professional articles and made more than 70 presentations around the country. He welcomes comments and questions and can be reached at:

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