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Cheerleading Coaches: Techniques for Dealing with Parents without Boundaries

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Cheer coach (Photo credit: Rick McCharles)

It is natural for concerned parents to get involved in their child’s extra-curricular activities. Sometimes, something strange seems to grab hold of parents where school-sponsored athletic programs are concerned. The fine line between interested involvement and parental interference can be crossed without apparent conscious awareness.

Since several dynamics are involved – the good of the team, establishing mutual respect and communication between parents and coach – cheerleading coaches must define their Code of Conduct, preferably pre-season.

Invite parents to a Town Hall meeting before the cheering season begins. Go to the meeting armed with printed copies of your Code of Conduct. Ensure parents are aware of consequences for stepping on your boundaries. It is vital that all parents understand your zero tolerance for name-calling and/or disrespecting other parents, your team or you.

Have each parent sign an attendance list, agreeing to your expectations.

But, what happens when parents without boundaries trample on the coaches territory?

Observation

Through observation coaches can identify certain types of pushy parents:

– The Controller – “hogs” your time. This will disrupt your practice schedule and possibly strain your relationship with their child.
– The Noisy Critic – yells inappropriate remarks to their child from the sidelines. This steps on your coaching abilities and embarrasses the child.
– The Expert Cheerleader – who has “been there, done that” better than you. This parent wants everything her way and might go behind your back to charm other parents into agreeing with her philosophy. The sneaky parent might even say she is acting on your behalf.

You’d better nip this parent’s bud; if she’s allowed to bloom, chaos will reign. If you’re a volunteer cheer coach, give The Expert directions on how to apply for her own squad. However, if you’re a staff member, remind her who is boss and enlist her future co-operation. See how she feels about fund-raising for the team.

Sequential Occurrences; Escalating Consequences

1st Occurrence

When the first occurrence of parental interference is observed, give the parent the benefit of doubt. Perhaps they got caught up in their excitement and “forgot” having signed the Code of Conduct agreement.

Take the offender to a private place and clearly state your observations. Express your disappointment. Then, offer a Hail Mary pass for the first occurrence. A reminder of potential consequences will likely resolve the issue.

2nd Occurrence

Some things never change nor do some people. If the parent persists in displaying inappropriate behavior, the coach must take sterner steps.

This is an appropriate time to reiterate your expectations and mete out consequences previously spelled-out in the Code of Conduct. It’s important for the same rules to apply to all the parents.

3rd Occurrence

If the parent(s) persists and continues to commit occurrences, consider expelling them from practices and live performances.

While expulsion may appear excessive, your role as cheer coach is to make every effort to provide an enriching experience for your team.

When parents without boundaries disrupt practice and display inappropriate behavior at events, it’s time to quit telling and start showing them the door.

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