Here’s How This Youth Sports Program Handles Dealing with Difficult Parents in Youth Sports
February 7, 2018
At some point, you will have experience dealing with difficult parents in youth sports. That’s just the nature of youth sports and the emotions that come with being a parent. There’s no quick fix to this recurring problem. But one youth program in the San Francisco Bay area found a cost-free way to address this. The answer: Reach out to a local college or university with a sport psychology department.
Diana Evans Harris serves as the operations and team coordinator for the East Bay Soldiers, a 501(c)(3) program. All coaches of the East Bay Soldiers are volunteers and USA Basketball licensed, but none of them have training in sport psychology.
“Every now and then I saw issues, situations in which a kid was frustrated. They’d be upset with anything — missing shots, playing time, the other team, referees –you name it. Then parents get frustrated,” Diana said. “It wasn’t fair to coaches or staff to answer questions on why a child was upset.”
It dawned on her to get some tips and support from sport psychologists. As a registered nurse, her first inclination was to look to health care. She found a sport psychology department at nearby JFK University and was soon referred to the Life Enhancement through Athletic Participation (LEAP) Program. Shortly after, Master’s level student-interns of Sport Psychology from LEAP held bi-monthly workshops with the players, coaches, and families.
Why This Works for Dealing with Difficult Parents in Youth Sports
Using sport as a catalyst, LEAP assists kids succeed in life, school, and social settings. The program’s student-interns share coping mechanisms, relaxation tips, and breathing techniques, improving mental awareness and confidence in the kids.
“Without a doubt this initiative has been most successful for our kids with their confidence levels,” Harris said. “These little things work during the game. More importantly, they translate off the court.”
“When a 13-year-old kid can use different breathing techniques — that’s a powerful tool for the mind,” said Dan Ourian, coordinator of the LEAP Program. “It’s applicable on the free throw line, during a timeout, or when a teacher raises their voice in the classroom.”
Coaches and parents also attend the workshops. Coaches focus on coaching and parents are relieved and excited to be a part of the experience. The program’s workshops are so successful that interns now serve regularly as a part of East Bay Soldiers for three to four months at a time.
“It’s really been a great combination,” Harris said. “The interns have to get so many hours experience and the program has been perfect for us, our mission, and the community we serve.”
How to Get Started
Diana and Dan hope the great results from this experience will inspire other programs to seek similar solutions. Diana says start with a Google search of local universities with a sports psychology department and a phone call.
“It’s our hope that one day every program will have a mental skills training component,” Dan said. “Sport psychology is a growing field. Reach out to local universities and explain the issues you’re having. There may be a department looking to help their students gain some real world experience.”
Encouraged by the massive success with LEAP, Diana is excited to work out new partnerships with other college departments, including nutrition and social work.
“The word ‘program’ to me is big. If we’re going to use that word I look at the kids’ needs everywhere,” she added, “especially in a community where resources aren’t as readily available.”