Youth Sport is bigger than any player. We do our best to let them go and let them play when they're on the field. That's a good thing. But coaches only get kids for at maximum, 2 or 3 hours at a time. Parent drive them around, pay for their access, eat and play with them at home, share their perspectives and experiences every day.Family Playing Football In Garden TogetherParents also make up the bulk of the volunteers for any club. Parent engagement is a key component of every program. If parents are not connected with what's going on. If they are not on board with the development program, then that development program is already in trouble. What is the problem with parent engagement and what can we do to make the youth sports experience better for everyone through effective parent engagement? What's the Problem With Parent Engagement?There are two main problems with parent engagement in youth sports:it's really hardit's really importantRemember back to when kids played bumble bee ball? 3, 4, 5, and even 6-year-olds all chasing the ball around like a swarm of bees. The kids had no idea of the rules. Everyone just wanted to kick the ball. In the younger ages, they were not even aware that they had teammates. They played next to one another in parallel play as opposed to with one another as a team. It was great fun!Parents stood around the field - usually all the way around the field if they could. Cameras were out. Smiles were on every parent's face. Parents were engaged and they were having fun! Fast forward 5 or 10 years and we see a very different picture on the sidelines of some soccer fields. Parents red in the face, yelling cheeseburger comments at the top of their lungs. Yelling at the referees. Kids shrinking with embarrassment. No, this doesn't happen at every soccer field. I hardly ever see it on my Club fields, but when I travel just a few miles, I can find it in abundance. What happened? At some point, kids seem to have advanced in their knowledge of the game and in their connection to the stuff that matters in youth sports. Progress over perfection, I always tell my players. But parents were left out. They have no developmental goals to anchor their passion for their kids. They don't celebrate the passback or the sportsmanship or the respect they gave to other players on the field. They celebrate or fail to celebrate one thing: the scoreboard. The scoreboard is the one thing that everyone can see. "What's the score?" parents ask as they wander down on the field and set up their chairs. "How's our team doing?" they ask. They mean this question in terms of what the scoreboard says. The typical response is "We're up by one," "They're killing us," or "We're doing great... it's 3:1." Would it be odd if parents came down and said "How's Chris doing with her game today? She's looking good. Is she enjoying the fitness?" Or "Hey! I saw Jason pick that kid up when I came down. He's really getting this sportsmanship concept out here!" or "Ama just never gives up out there! It's great to see her spirit really bloom out there on the field!"Of course, there are more practical reasons to have a good parent engagement program. 1. without it, we risk treating parents like taxi drivers and wallets instead of the development partners they are. 2. They have questions that need answering and it's best for everyone if they enjoy the experience as much as possible. Without our parents, folks... youth sport goes away.What are the Causes of the Parent Engagement Problem?I believe we're missing out on some of these really great conversations because we've failed to bring parents along when it comes to the real reasons for youth sports. All parents want their kids to succeed, and in the absence of any relevant markers for success, they use the scoreboard as the proxy. A win means their kid is a winner. A loss means their kid can do better next time. We miss the point!Parent engagement is an added layer of overhead to many organizations.
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