Educating Parents: Parent Orientation Programs


Educating Parents: Parent Orientation Programs

by Dennis A. Johnson, EdD

In many cases parent involvement intensifies as wrestlers enter the high school arena. The stakes become higher as the wrestlers enter the talent development stage where they have reached or are close to physical maturity. Some have decided to be really competitive and may be considering moving into the elite stage of talent development while others just enjoy the competition and being on the team. Some high school wrestling parents will be viewed as under-involved, some over-involved, and some…as Goldilocks once said “will be just right.” In any case the key for a successful coach-parent relationship begins with an inclusive and positive parent orientation session.

Michael King conducted a pilot study in Utah in which he administered an evidence-based parent education seminar to 81 soccer parents and data revealed a positive impact on both the parent and children’s experiences (1). Indications are that a well-organized parent education program has the potential to impact not only an athlete’s enjoyment and motivation, but also the parent-child interaction. So what does a parent education or orientation program look like?

Coaches might consider hosting a combination “meet the team” night in combination with the parent orientation program. Having wrestlers in attendance accomplishes two goals; first, parents are more inclined to attend and second, wrestlers can help to hold their parents accountable for positive behaviors throughout the season. Rainer Martins prescribes an agenda for a parent orientation in the text Successful Coaching (2). He suggests the following outline (p. 392-393): Introductions (10 min.), Coaching Philosophy (10 min.), Sport-specific Demonstrations (Covering tricky techniques and rule changes) (10-15 minutes), Potential Risks (5-10 min.), Team Rules (10 min), (Be sure to cover team selection policies in this section), and Parent Policies/Expectations (15 min.). The key emphasis for parents is to: be supportive, not put a lot of pressure on the wrestler, keep winning in perspective, helping the wrestler to set realistic goals, help the wrestler to meet his responsibilities to the team and coach, and finally to be sure to monitor and notify the coach of any mental or physical concerns.

I personally would always emphasize a “we build up” atmosphere where parents involved with the program are encouraging to both their own wrestlers and their opponents, where they recognize that match officials will sometimes miss a call both for us an against us, and where they realize that in an educational athletics setting that success and winning are not necessarily the same. The NWCA Wrestling Coaches Resource Manual (Scholastic Edition) offers some additional tips for working with parents of high school wrestlers. They cover additional strategies for involving parents, dealing with parent conflicts, having consistent policies, and with clear communication.

“Find a way and make it happen”….dj

Dennis A. Johnson, EdD
Associate Professor-Jamestown Community College (SUNY)
Former wrestling coach & author of Wrestling Drills for the Mat and Mind

1. King, M. Q. (2015). The impact of evidence-based parent education in organized youth sport. Research on Capitol Hill. Paper 4.

2. Martens, R. (2011). Successful coaching. Champaign IL: Human Kinetics.

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