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How can increasing the level of parent involvement boost your club’s success?

In this Parent Factor series, we explore why and how you should create a culture whereby parents, coaches, leadership and athletes are all on the same level. Click to view our free Parent Engagement ebook.

Let’s start the series with the basics: what are the benefits of parent involvement?

The Grand Prix analogy

Gordon MacLelland, Parents in Sport expert, created the perfect analogy to demonstrate why parents are so important to your club:

‘If the athlete is the driver of your Grand Prix car, then the coaches and parents are the team that make that driver perform at the very best of their ability. They are the mechanics in the pit, and the team speaking in the driver’s ear – passing on wisdom and advice.’

Everyone involved has the same goal: to win the Grand Prix. Or, to be more literal, for the athlete to succeed. It’s essential that you understand that all parties must be on the same team. Because a disjointed relationship will ultimately impact your levels of success.

Recognise that parents don’t simply organise the athletes, deliver them to training or competitions, and pay for the session. There’s a lot more to it; they play a pivotal role in the athlete’s experience. If they know that they’re on your team too, then that creates a healthy environment and culture for the athlete to thrive in.

Free Parent Engagement ebook download

The benefits of parent involvement at your club

There are six key reasons why parents need to be involved at your club:

1. They have insights into the athletes that coaches don’t

Remember that, most of the time, parents know all there is to know about their children – particularly whilst they’re very young. Coaching staff, therefore, need to absorb as much of this (relevant) information as possible from the parents. This way, you have greater insight into how the athletes’ minds work, so that you can get the very best from them. And you can also build much stronger coach-athlete relationships.

Take the example of a child that’s having a tough time in school. If their parents aren’t involved in your club at all, how will you find out? They may arrive at training, seemingly uninterested or disconnected. Without the context from parents, you may treat the situation in the wrong way. The parents need to be brought into the conversation, so that you can build positive, trusting relationships with the athletes.

2. It increases how long athletes take part in your sport

It’s important for you to enable the parents to have a healthy involvement in their child’s participation in your sport. We’re going to explore how to create that perfect level of parent involvement later in this series. But it’s important to understand that if a parent is overly invested, or not invested enough, then that could impact negatively on the athlete’s sporting experience.

The NSPCC’s Child Protection in Sport Unit explains that involving parents in their child’s sporting activities can increase sustained participation. When the parents are involved in decisions being made – for example, increasing levels of training – then you will receive much less pushback. And you will build a much stronger partnership with the parent.

3. It provides coaches with an outsider’s perspective

Parents having greater insight into the workings of your club provides second opinions and perspectives. This can highlight any changes required, or need for new processes, that you do not recognise from inside your club.

As leaders and coaches, your view of the club can become narrowed. For example, if you introduce a new structure for training sessions, how will you ensure that this change is being well-received? Opening up that relationship with parents provides you with extra ‘ears and eyes’.

4. Parents can continue encouraging your coaching messaging beyond training practice

Coaches and leadership only have influence whilst the athletes are at the club. If your club has a message or culture that you’d really like to embed in your athletes, then parents can help reinforce those messages at home. This helps the parents to support their child’s sporting development in a positive way.

5. They can fulfill roles at your club

Remember that many of your parents have skills and expertise that can help your club. There could be some parents, for example, that are electricians, or plumbers. If something goes wrong at your club, they can be on hand to help out – so long as you’ve built a good relationship with them.

Likewise, you may have parents that work in finance or HR, and can help with the running of your club. If they are involved and feel valued by you, then they’ll be willing to assist in anyway they can – as it will improve their child’s experience at your club.

6. They can help with your fundraising efforts

Finally, consider the fact that many parents are involved in their school’s Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs). These groups are great at organising and running fundraising events, so they’ll have plenty of advice and wisdom to share with you.

Bear in mind, too, that a lot of information is shared in PTA groups. If a parent has had a positive experience with your club, they will recommend you to other parents. But this works both ways; they will share information about any negative experiences, too.

Taking a holistic approach to the coach-parent-athlete relationship is integral to the development and success of your club. Hopefully these six benefits have helped demonstrate that. And in the next couple of blogs in this series ,we’ll explore:

  • Dealing with difficult parent conversations and situations
  • Creating a healthy level of parent involvement at your club

Check out the next blog in our parent factor series: ‘How to deal with difficult parent conversations at sports clubs

This article was based on a live video hosted by Alex Row, LoveGymnastics Community Ambassador. If you’re involved with a gymnastics or football club and are interested in watching similar videos in future, join our dedicated Facebook Communities:

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