Pushy parents ruin sport for young people as well as coaches, competition officials and basically everyone who has to spend time around them. They can be intimidating, bullying and bring the reputation of the player, club and sport down with them.
Because most martial arts are weight catagorised, comments from parents towards children regarding their weight, especially in a high pressured competetive environment have been known to cause eating disorders. This isn’t localised to martial arts either, this type of thing happens in sports like gymnastics and athletics, especially amongst female competetors.
So what can be done when parents are taking it way too far when it comes to pressure to do well, abusive levels of support in competition and in training? We’ll look at it from the child’s perspective and the coach’s perspective
If you are a child with parents who are pushing you too hard in your sport. By that I mean they get angry if you don’t want to train, they might be telling you how to train or what training you should be doing. They might be restricting your diet or shouting angrily at referees in competition or other parents or coaches. You’ve probably got a problem on your hands and it can really bring you down with it.
If you’ve got a good relationship with your parents, talk to them, tell them either to calm down or make sure they know what you want from them and the sport. If you want them to push you and monitor your diet, then ask for it. If you don’t then make sure they know that. But quite often you might feel embarassed to talk to them or even frightened. If there are issues when it comes to training or competition, one way out can be going with friends families rather than your own. But if it is at this point, you might want to talk to someone. You can always approach your coach, they’ve done training in how to deal with problems like this, or you can go to your club’s welfare officier (if your martial art is an olympic sport, it should have a welfare officer) and they can help a lot more.
Frist thing is to prevent there being a problem in the first place. Make sure your club has a policy about parents behaviour. For instance, my old judo club has a rules board which says that parents should be quiet on the side of the mat. If there is a particular problem, make sure your club has a policy such as reserving the right to ban parents but not players from the club and make sure that it’s visible.
Communicating these policies to parents can often make the difference. If a parent is being particularly loud while training is on or in a competition, talk to them first so they know what the score is. This may stop the issue straight away.
Having some sort of policy set up in advance makes taking action a lot easier. However it can be difficult because you may well lose the player as well as the parents but having a visible policy can be a deterrant for misbehaviour. If you do end up losing the player and parents, at least that negative influence is no longer bringing the club down with it and make sure that the player knows they are still welcome.
If a player approaches you regarding their parents or anyone else’s parents, follow your safeguarding training and think about taking steps to report it.
The takeaway from this is not to tolerate parents acting agressively, pushing their child too hard or disrupting training or competition. They bring down the rest of the club with them and firm action may prevent future problems for anyone involved.
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