How Parents Can Support Grassroots Coaches

Grassroots coaches have what can feel like an impossible and thankless job at times – dedicating hours of unpaid work and sacrificing time away from friends and family.

Local clubs across the country rely on willing volunteers to step up to give their time. Initially advertised as a couple of hours a week, seasoned coaches know all too well that, in reality, coaching at grassroots level can feel like having a second full-time job.

No matter what sport, coaches put in many more hours than parents and players will see. Every training session requires careful planning and is then dissected for what went right and/or wrong straight afterwards.

Matchdays can be even more stressful, ensuring that everyone knows where to be (that enough players are available), the referee is organised, the playing area is set up and is cleared up afterwards, and reviewing areas of development to work on in the next week’s training session.

That is all before answering any queries that parents may have, as well as organising kit, equipment, and sponsorship. Any coaches reading this will recognise this as a normal week.

Helping Grassroots Coaches

Children only have the opportunity of playing grassroots sports because someone else was kind enough to give up their time. Coaches will be the first to admit that they will never get it right and they will make mistakes that parents may find frustrating, especially if it affects their child – for example, querying the amount of playing time their son/daughter gets in comparison to others.

Coaching at grassroots level can be lonely, which is why help from parents is always greatly appreciated. Even something as simple as offering to handle the distribution of kits, helping to set up playing areas and just generally mucking in to allow coaches to do what they have signed up to do, which is to coach.

Coaches will never turn away a helpful parent, but they may not always be the most willing to ask for help for fear of looking as though they aren’t capable of running a team. Some parents can be very judgemental (though never willing to raise their hands), which can put huge pressure on an amateur coach to be seen to be able to handle it all.

What Grassroots Parents Shouldn’t do

Even if parents can’t dedicate time to helping the coach, there are still plenty of ways they can help. If you ask a coach what the best thing a parent can do is, the first thing they say likely is to keep quiet on the sidelines. Parents giving opposite instructions to their children to what the coach has said is confusing and distracting. Leave the coaching to the coaches.

Keep things positive during training and games. Grassroots players are going to make mistakes and they should be allowed to as that is how they will learn. Having a parent moaning at them, especially in public, is embarrassing and highly demotivating – this is one reason why many children drop out.

Any toxic behaviour by a parent should be quickly eliminated, such as negatively commenting on another child’s performance in front of other parents. Parents can help coaches by keeping such thoughts to themselves. The same can be said about comments about the coach and/or the decision they make. Parents should always be encouraged to talk to coaches privately before or after sessions, rather than openly complaining about them in front of others as this undermines the coach and upsets the harmony within the team.

Criticising referees and officials is another big no-no. Not only is this incredibly disruptive to the game, but teaches children a bad example. Coaches are fighting a losing battle when teaching their players to respect the referee when their parents are doing the exact opposite.


In grassroots sport, it can feel a bit ‘them and us’ when it comes to coaches and parents and it really shouldn’t do, especially when, more often than not, the coach is a parent themselves. Maintaining open communication is essential to a positive relationship between parent and coach.

Coaches are doing their best and, on the flip side, parents want what they feel is best for their child. The two ideologies may not always match and that is perfectly okay, as long as coaches and parents can hold a discussion and work towards finding a solution that everyone is happy with.

If you are a coach reading this, then don’t be afraid to drop a message in your group chat asking for an extra hand so that you can give more of your time to the kids. If you are a parent that has been reading this, then don’t wait for the coach to ask for help – ask what you can do for them.

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