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How coaches can work better with sports parents and create an extraordinary team culture - JP Nerbun


Let's face it. Parents get a bad reputation out there in the softball world...and I believe it's only because of a handful of parents who make the experience tough for everyone around them.

Maybe they're playing "through" their athlete and hoping so bad they don't make the same mistakes they did. Maybe the parent wants it more than their athlete and it's frustrating when they think their daughter is being "lazy". Maybe they're hard to communicate with because they carry their bad day at work with them. 

As a coach, it's tough to do your job when you feel as if every decision you make is going to get judged or criticized, but I wanted to share this with you today to give you encouragement to work on building a culture that doesn't tolerate gossip, but instead believes in the system and has an ecosystem around it that wants to support it. 


Coaches, sometimes the best way to be SEEN as a human and not just a dictator of a team is to show you're human..and the best way to do that is to be open and a bit vulnerable at times.

Listen to JP Nerbun: How coaches can better work with sports parents and create an extraordinary culture, Part 1 of 2>>>


According to bestselling author and leading leadership coach, JP Nerbun, there IS a way coaches can create an environment from parents, coaches to player that helps create a better dynamic and one that people can LOOK FORWARD to being a part of.

No, it's not trying to change parents or tell them "I know best", but it is working on ways to involve them.

Here are some ideas he recommends to do that:

  1. In your initial team meeting, play a fun "parents v. athletes" game of kickball or whiffle ball. Keep it light and just a fun experience people will walk away from feeling as if they know the team and coaches better.
  2. Maybe you plan an "adults" function at a local restaurant where you can all get to know each other better and talk about goals for the year, get to know the parents a bit more and bond over stories and/or experiences.
  3.  Keep constant communication and an open door policy to talk about the well-being of the athlete. If you keep it clear that the well-being of the athlete and your actions align with that.
  4. Create clear and concise boundaries. Maybe you plan conversations with parents over the phone in private. Maybe you have a 24 hour policy to discuss issues regarding playing time, etc. because you know after a little rest and some time to think, any "extra" emotions will have simmered a bit over time.


There are also moments when you will inevitably have to have hard conversations with parents and his 3 tips to navigate the hard conversations effectively on both ends are these:

  1. Listen with curiosity and to understand...and get a sense of where this parent might be coming from. Even ask questions to get the full picture. After you receive it, then repeat back what you're hearing just to make sure you understood them completely.
  2. Now, respectably share your perspective. Start with sentences like "The facts are___" or "This is why I made this decision." Do you stand by the decision you made or think (after the fact) there was a better way to go about it? Your goal is to bring clarity to the situation and leave out no grey area.
  3. Lastly, partner together on a solution. What's in the best interest of the athlete and how can you both go about supporting the athlete through this.

It's not east to have conversations, but the longer you avoid them, the more heated they can end up. Do the hard thing, because once there is clarity on both ends, everyone can breathe a bit better at the end of the day.



I was honored to have JP Nerbun on my podcast recently sharing all of these ideas and a lot more about building a winning culture, similarities between programs with great culture and leadership, how coaches can get their players and their parents to buy in to high standards, and how to build a team that can successfully hold themselves accountable. 

In this 2-part interview we discuss:

  • How to see parents as people not problems
  • His examples and experiences with including parents with team activities
  • How to create clarity with consistent check-ins
  • The rule book for having hard but productive conversations
  • Why being vulnerable can create a stronger bond within a team and its culture

Tune in to part 1 here>>>

  • The trauma he had from having a verbally abusive coach but how he was able to process and move on
  • How to know the line between demanding and demeaning coaching
  • Why coaching the way you were coaches doesn't always work
  • Similarities we can learn from  successful teams
  • How to establish high standards and get the team to buy in

Listen to part 2 with JP Nerbun here>>>


I'm grateful to have spent time with JP learning his wisdom around leadership and building a great culture and I firmly believe his two books should be in the hands of every youth coach looking to establish a team and support system that will thrive much longer than the time they take the field, the court, or wherever they compete.


Check out his book “The Sports Parent Solution: Proven Strategies for transforming parents from obstacles to allies”>>>

Check out his book “The Culture System: A Proven Process for Creating an Extraordinary Team Culture”>>>

Visit the TOC Culture Website>>>

Follow JP on Twitter>>>

Watch this Interview on YouTube>>>

Join the When the Cleats Come Off Facebook Community>>>



If you haven’t already, please subscribe to the show maybe even leave a review and share it with a friend so we can together make this one of the premier sports and coaching podcasts out there!


Stay awkward, stay humble and keep smiling :)


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