“Creating a Culture”

Further to my piece last week, we have had several queries about how to get parents on board with your coaching and how you and your club works with their child. Whilst there is no right answer to this, I am going to explore some ‘best practice’ examples of how you might provide clarity on how you work and what you and your club stands for.

The first point on “how to get parents on board with your coaching”, is you must create a culture. But what is a culture and how do you establish it? Legacy, written by James Kerr, explores the culture within the All Blacks and provides a fantastic insight into how a culture helps create the optimal learning and performance environment. Whilst this is based around Senior Men’s Rugby, the concept and what their culture epitomises is certainly something that can be filtered down to grassroots coaching. In order to establish a culture, you must have an identity of what it is that you stand for, how you wish to be perceived and viewed, and values and beliefs that you live by and don’t deter away from not matter what (the non-negotiables).

“Leaders create leaders by passing on responsibility, creating ownership, accountability and trust,” so as an individual you are key to shaping an environment and a culture which mirrors you and what you want to stand for.

15 All Black Principles: https://thewhitehorsefederation.org.uk/downloads/default/All-blacks-Poster_01.pdf

Off the Pitch

Whilst you might not have the size of the back room staff the All Blacks have, you have some invaluable people that can help support you in this, parents. Parents in grassroots are paramount to helping support and keep grassroots alive, whether that’s a parent being a referee, coaching the team, helping with kit and equipment, parents are critical in being part of what you’re about. Recently, I visited a game, where a mother and her son were making hot drinks for visitors watching the game, whilst it’s only a small part of what happens on a match day, the welcoming and gesture created an atmosphere which promoted all the values that the club stood for.

This personal and hands on approach, highlighted that this isn’t just about a game of football, it’s about creating a culture, a football family, which strives to create the best positive learning environment it can. My advice look at your facilities and what you have available to you and have them involved in creating what they want the environment to look like for their children.Never be too big to do the small things that need to be done,” nothing highlights this better than the Japan international football team cleaning their changing rooms after their defeat to Belgium in the 2018 World Cup. If you want to create an environment where the children take responsibility and ownership, as well as being held accountable for their actions, this is something that your parents can lead by modelling the behaviours that you wish for your players to demonstrate.

Look after your Parents & Players

So, that’s off the pitch taken care off. Well, not quite. I appreciate it’s not as simple as asking everyone to go above and beyond what they need to do as parents, on top of travelling around to take their children to training and games, their needs to be some acknowledgement to reward and to make people want to be part of what your club stands for. Anyway, wouldn’t you reward a child for going above and beyond what they should do to help someone else? Now the reward might not be the same for every individual, but if you want people to buy into how you work, acknowledge their effort in helping support you in building this culture.

Throughout my career in coaching, I’ve come to realise that ‘off the pitch is as important as on the pitch.’ So, to get people on board with your coaching, having parents and players involved in setting a precedent for how you want to work, will only help you with your coaching. Last week, I spoke about the relationship between the ‘Player, Parent & Coach’, and how workshops with parents as well as regular meeting with players and parents can help in providing clarity and consistency on the messages you wish to provide.


On the Pitch

As a coach, once you’ve created clarity on how you wish to work off the pitch, you then need to think about how you want to work on the pitch. In order to do so, think about what are the most important things when children are playing football? Short of ideas, why not get the children involved in creating what they want to learn/be involved in when they’re with you? By providing them with ownership of what they wish to learn and do whilst in your coaching sessions, it will help determine what you need to recreate to create the best positive learning environment.

In my experience, fun, safety and education, are key components of what to focus on when putting coaching sessions on with children. Make sure, whatever you want your sessions and games to look like, you consider this when you’re planning each session. These are arguably the most important things parents want for their child when playing football, aren’t they? Once you’ve determined how you want your sessions and games need to look like, consider how you’re going to bring these out when the children are under your care. If you take my ideas from the above, here’s how you may work to create a coaching environment your parents truly believe in:

How to get parents on board with your coaching

3 Key Components

Fun – ‘let them play’, in my experience, embracing a chaotic and unstructured coaching environment where it is game based and promotes play is the way to go. Does it mean you have to just play games? No, not necessarily, but variety is the spice of life. Make the experience of your coaching sessions varied and different, find new and creative ways through play to fully immerse the children in your coaching sessions. One of the ideas I tried recently was using skills cards in training and games to get the children to try to perform a skill of one of their role models.challenge cards

Challenge Cards: https://www.themagicacademy.co.uk/the-origin-of-challenge-cards

Safety – make sure safety is at the forefront of what you do. Small things like creating a drinks area for your players to put their water bottles, working closely with your safeguarding officer, reporting and speaking to parents on anything that warrants it etc.

Education – Michael Calvin’s “No Hunger in Paradise: The Players. The Journey. The Dream” highlights that only 0.012% of people participating in football go onto play professional football. Therefore, we have a great responsibility to galvanise the children’s love of the game, and make sure we are using football to help educate them both on and off the pitch. With so few children going on to make it in professional football, if you’re coaching to make professional footballers, have a think… is that the only outcome you want from your coaching sessions? For me, make an environment where children love learning. This is essential in developing the person.

Key Points

how to get parents on board with your coaching”:

  1. Establish what it means to be part of your club
  2. Involve parents in creating the culture off the pitch
  3. Determine what your players want from your coaching sessions and deliver it