As a youth soccer coach, your main focus is normally going to be doing what your job title says – coaching your team to improve their performance. To do this, you obviously need to form relationships with your squad to a certain extent, otherwise they will not have the trust required to follow your lead.

However, it’s also absolutely crucial to form relationships with parents, as well as the players themselves. There are a number of benefits to doing this.

Firstly, it helps you to maintain a supportive sideline, and hopefully reduce the number of negative comments that parents sometimes make at games. Secondly, being on good terms with parents puts you in a better position to help their son or daughter become a better player.

Parents may tell you a lot of things that players won’t, and vice versa. This is why it’s important to build relationships with both.

Here are some tips to develop stronger relationships with parents as a youth coach.

Be personable

Let’s start with the basics.

Remember, you’re a coach, not a robot. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to parents at the start of a season. Show them that you care about the team and their child’s performance, and they’ll be much more likely to be open with you.

The issue is your time is quite limited as a coach, and the opportunities to have these interactions may be numbered. Before training, you’ll likely be setting everything up, and after training you’ll normally be packing all of your equipment away. At games, everything is even more hectic.

The best time to chat with parents is normally at the end of a game. Provided you play on a weekend, they should have a few minutes to spare. However, you really want parents to feel comfortable approaching you, so that any concerns they have (for example, an unmotivated player) can be addressed quickly.

Show that you care

This is really the secret to getting parents comfortable enough to approach you if they have something they want to discuss.

If you’ve demonstrated that you really care about their kid’s performance on the team, parents will be much more likely to come to you if they have concerns.

To do this, it’s a good idea to make that extra effort to really get to know every player on your team. What position(s) do they prefer to play? Do they care about winning, or are they there to have fun with their mates? Think about the age group you’re coaching when asking yourself these sorts of questions.

Adopt active listening

Active listening essentially means taking that extra step to get to the bottom of a player/parent’s concerns when they’re talking to you. For example, asking follow-up questions, summarising/interpreting their concerns – facilitating a more insightful discussion.

You probably already do this to an extent. However, it’s worth remembering the importance of this technique.

The benefit of active listening is two-fold. Firstly, you get more information from the conversation, allowing you to better-inform the decisions you’re making, and the steps you’re taking to build better player/parent relations. Secondly, the other person feels that you’re paying more attention to what they’re saying, promoting trust and building the foundations of a great relationship.

What if parents don’t agree with my decisions?

Sometimes, player-coach conflict is inevitable. You might have to bench players, or play them in a position they don’t want to play. If parents fancy themselves as coaches, they might even disagree with the formation you play, or the tactics you use.

You can’t force parents to agree with everything you do. But what you can do is explain why you make the decisions you do – providing your reasoning can help parents understand. However, don’t feel the need to explain the logic behind every decision you make.

If you’re benching a player, you can explain why, but also ensure that the parent knows what their son/daughter can do to improve. Provide not just the why, but the how as well. This way, they won’t feel powerless.

This post is a guest post from our friends at Lift Your Game, your source for all things sport.

Lift Your Game is a site for sports players, by sports players. Their experts will provide you with the latest news, guides and tutorials to enable you to improve your performance in your chosen sport.

Whether you play soccer or tennis, baseball or cornhole, they’ve got you covered. If you need gear recommendations or further insight into the methodologies of top athletes, look to Lift Your Game for a wealth of sporting knowledge.