Ugly parents drive junior coaches away
By Mandy Squires
April 8th, 2013
UGLY parents are pushing coaches away from junior sport and creating a national coaching crisis, a landmark Deakin University study reveals.
In a first for Australian sport, researchers with Deakin's Centre for Exercise and Sports Science examined the nature of the country's coaching workforce and found more than one-third or 38 per cent of coaches rated dealing with players' parents as having a negative impact on their coaching.
About 42 per cent also struggled in their dealings with administrators and other adults involved with the club.
"The key message I got out of the research was that the most stressful component and tricky part of working with a team was not with the (junior) players, but with other adults, whether parents or administrators," researcher Dr Andrew Dawson said.
Many "mum-and-dad-type-coaches" reported they had been shocked to discover that despite giving their time for free to the club their efforts were not appreciated, he said.
"It was a shock because they had gone into it believing they'd be appreciated for the job they did," he said.
Parents often had unrealistic expectations not only of their children's sporting abilities, but also of the coach's skills, he said.
In many cases, junior sports coaches did not have a vast amount of coaching experience.
The study revealed more than half of all coaches had less than 10 years' experience.
It also showed more than 40 per cent of coaches were aged above 50.
The combination of aging coaches and pressure from parents and club officials on volunteers who were not adequately supported was leading to a decrease in the number of future coaches, Dr Dawson said.
"That we are seeing a drop in the number of next generation coaches is concerning for the future of Australian sports," he said.
The issues highlighted in the Deakin study needed to be addressed if the future of Australian sport was to be ensured, Dr Dawson said.
This meant there had to be better support for coaches and their enthusiasm had to be nurtured.
"In particular, we need to find better ways to develop the volunteers the mum and dad coaches who are the backbone of sports in this country.
"The recent focus on coach development has been on the performance of our elite and professional coaches, but this research reveals there is a much bigger problem emerging in the long-term development of Australia's coaching workforce," Dr Dawson said.
The Profiling the Australian Coaching Workforce study involved a survey of 1374 coaches and interviews with 40 coaches from grassroots community and school sport level through to senior and professional levels.
The majority of survey respondents were from Victoria, with most respondents coming from the sports of athletics, football and netball.
About 60 per cent of the coaches interviewed were volunteers and therefore unpaid for their efforts, but coaching could hit them in the back-pocket, as they covered travel and other costs themselves, the report found.
"Overall, coaches enjoy their work," Dr Dawson said.
"They began coaching because they wanted to give something back to their sport and continue to coach because of the intrinsic rewards such as seeing their athletes develop and succeed. "However, coaches did say the stress of coaching can take a toll on their health and personal finances."