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UK Coaching Team
Rapport Building and Communicating

A Model of Consistency: Send the Right Message to Parents

For parental engagement to thrive between an organisation, coach, parent and child there must be connectivity, alignment and consistency, says Gordon MacLelland of Working with Parents in Sport (WWPIS)

A lot of stress can be caused by the feeling of uncertainty and not knowing what is going on for parents arriving at training or an event, particularly when something totally out of the blue occurs. It may be unforeseen, yet for the parents it can affect them and ultimately their children.

This is made more complicated when coaches, clubs and organisations have communicated clear expectations and philosophies to parents, yet the behaviours and actions they see do not always model the messages that have been given.

I have seen and had people share stories with me of them standing and watching one game on one field which supports and aligns all that has been communicated; yet when they turn and look over on the other field the coach and parental behaviours have looked completely different.

This highlights why consistent messaging and behaviours of all stakeholders is vital.  

Messaging and codes of conduct can be declared totally unproductive if they are not followed through with actions, or the behaviours around those words are not modelled and displayed consistently.



Coaches are the gatekeepers of the organisation’s wider culture and consistency is the key.

Ask yourselves the following questions:

  1. Do you recognise the above statement in your role?
  2. Are you clear about your organisation's culture and philosophy?
  3. Are you clear of your role and expected behaviours as a coach?  
  4. Are the rest of your team clear on their roles?
  5. Do you know where you can get support from and clarity on your role and behaviours?

If we can work hard to establish consistency, not just in messaging, but also in our coach behaviours, we have an increased chance of parents following our lead and living the ethos that has been created.

Coaching environment: First impressions count


Parents with little or no sports science, sporting or coaching background will often behave in a way that is influenced by several key factors. It is human nature that we all want to conform to the behaviour of the group; there is safety in numbers, so if new parents arrive into an environment they are likely mimic what is going on in front of them.

If parents don’t align to the environment or there are no clear expectations in place, they are likely to behave in a way that reflects their own sporting experiences – modelling on how their own parents behaved towards them, their own experiences as an athlete or how they perceived their coaches attitude towards them.

They may even perceive the youth sporting experience through the eyes of how they see performance and professional sport on the television.

Parents need help and support to be shown the most effective ways to create a positive environment around their children’s sport. Taking the time to explain your approach, values and environment can have significant benefits as you progress; remember to also support parents who join you mid-year or programme.

Working with Parents in Sport (WWPIS)

WWPIS supports organisations, parents and coaches in working together to provide children with the best possible sporting experiences. Their courses include:

  • 'Engage' - how to build positive relationships with your players' parents (for coaches)
  • 'Positive Parental Engagement' - the role of the organisation
  • 'Great Sports Parenting' (5-11 year olds)
  • 'Great Sports Parenting' (the teenage years and the pathway).

Visit the WWPIS website to find out more.

Related Resources

  • Building Positive Relationships with Parents

  • We Are Family

  • Ways to Improve Your Child's Experience of Coaching


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UK Coaching Team