Meet: Kurtis Wright-Pottinger
Qualifications: FA level 2 coaching certificate, FA futsal level 1, Sports coaching diploma (level 5) and a number of different coaching qualifications in various sports.
Experiences: Coaching local teams and in schools for almost 16 years now
Can you give us a bit of background information on yourself?
Kurtis Wright-Pottinger, 35 from Birmingham, United Kingdom.
I have been coaching local teams and in schools for almost 16 years now and I hold the FA level 2 coaching certificate, FA futsal level 1, Sports coaching diploma (level 5) and a number of different coaching qualifications in various sports.
I currently have a futsal coaching business and I run a blog called letsplaythegame.co.uk/blog which is all about helping coaches & parents give young players a positive start to their football playing careers.
In my opinion, young football players should be given lots of opportunity to play and make lots of decisions within REALISTIC situations. The game is chaotic with lots of unpredictable moments, so our young players should experience playing in situations like this as much as possible.
How would you define a parent(s) role within the youth sports environment?
In my opinion, parents are underutilised in not just football but most junior sports.
If used correctly, parents can be your secret weapon for accelerating player development. A parent must be supportive but know their limits and be realistic about their child’s development.
Every child has their own development pathway, some want to just make friends and have fun others want to really hone their skills and take it as far as they possibly can.
Whatever their journey, a parent should be flexible with their expectations and have lots of PATIENCE!
What are the benefits of embracing parental involvement within youth sports?
Increased level of communication between coach-child-parent, trust, improved knowledge, same information provided to the athlete pre and post-match, increased level of enjoyment and participation, parent –child relationshipetc.)
As mentioned earlier, having the parents on board can accelerate the child’s development and if they are not then they can be a hindrance.
As coaches, we have limited contact time with the players. Many of us only get to work with the players twice a week. So it is extremely important to educate parents to ensure we have better communication between player & parent i.e before, during and after games.
Better parental involvement will also help improve the relationship between player & coach especially if the parent is re enforcing what the coach is doing before and after games.
How have you as a coach/club attempted to highlight and educate the importance of the “Role of Sports Parents” within youth sports?
Whenever I work with a local junior team I have certain methods to relay my message to the parents.
Firstly, I like to use a parent contract to set my expectations from the start. The parent document will include our philosophy, how we want to play and what we expect from them and the players throughout their time at the club.
I also like to use regular communication methods either in the form of email, private social media groups and regular de briefs at the end of sessions (at least once a month).
To get my message across I use videos either made by myself or other coaches that have found on the internet. I will also share helpful documents and articles that I believe will benefit the parents.
Finally, I will set football homework to the players and parents at the end of each session. I will show the parents this as well so that they have the option of helping the player with the practice.
What challenges have you faced when attempting to embrace, educate and involve sports parents?
The biggest challenge is changing the culture. Many parents still carry outdated views of how the game should be played and we are always trying to change that.
Years and years of conditioning from the ‘get rid culture’ era make it difficult for some parents to see a different way of doing things.
- Have you seen a difference in youth athletes when youth sports parents positively embrace their role by supporting the player also the whole team?
It makes a massive difference to players when their parents show positive support. Players feel that they can express themselves and make mistakes without the repercussions from the parents.
When the parents just ‘let the kids play’ the kids play with freedom and find it easier to accept failure.
What I also find is that the players focus less on the result of the game.
What advice would you give coaches that are unsure/nervous about preventing negative behaviour/comments from the sideline and educate parents within youth sports?
If you are not prepared to step in and make a change then it will have a huge effect on your players.
Honestly, you can prevent a lot of the issues if put in the foundations from the start. Having the foundations in place from the beginning will help weed out the parents who don’t want to work with you.
Even if you still get negative comments from parents, having all this place will give you a reference to fall back on and remind the parents what they signed up for and how you do things at your club.
For those parents unaware of their influential role, what advice would you give parents?
To put yourself in the shoes of child and imagine what it would feel like to play and hear negative comments or constant reminders of what you are doing wrong on the side lines, would this help you play better football?
Or would you feel better if your parent just said hardly anything at all?
Parents need to play a supportive role in their child’s development and realise it is about the child and their needs not your own.
Just concentrate on giving positive encouragement and setting positive tasks before and after games such as ‘how many gaps can you see to exploit with a dribble or pass’ or ‘when it’s necessary, can you receive on the back foot’.
What types of behaviours/mannerisms/comments would you encourage parents to demonstrate? Pre-During and Post training/match.
First off, less is more. You don’t need to remind your child during the game about where they are going wrong, leave the coaching to the coach.
Instead of giving instructions, set tasks before games to get them thinking during the game. This will encourage them to think for themselves.
Try to work with your child’s coach and regularly communicate with them to play an active role in your child’s development.
Massive thank you, Kurtis for taking the time to complete the following interview questions.
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