Coaches regularly cite ‘working with parents’ as one of the most challenging aspects of their role. This is the case at most levels of sport with the possible exception of the highest levels of professional sport. Young people often mention parental behaviour as a major factor in their discontinuation in sport.

The exact nature of parental engagement varies widely amongst families, this often depending on the stage of child’s development in sport. It is the years around the talent identification stage (typically 13-18) that conflict can commonly arise between the parents and coach as transitions between sporting goals are negotiated.

Understanding and valuing the role each person plays in the development of the young person is necessary for effective communication and hence the positive relationships between interested parties.

What should also be kept in mind, no matter what the extent of poor behaviour, parents want the best for their children. Troublingly, at times some parents do not have the right skills to constructively deal with any feelings of confusion, anger or embarrassment they may be experiencing in relation to their child’s involvement in sport. This can lead to clashes and outbursts that impact greatly on coaches and most importantly, children.

By being proactive and seeking positive engagements with parents there is a greater likelihood that everyone coaches, parents, officials, and young people will enjoy their time in sport.

Below is a list provided to use by a local fencing coach:

One of my friends asked, “Why do you pay so much money and spend so much time running around for your son to fence?” Well I have a confession to make:I don’t pay for my son’s training or his kit. Or even for the hundreds of miles we travel.

  • So, if I am not paying for fencing, what am I paying for?
  • I pay for those moments when my boy becomes so tired he feels like quitting but doesn’t..
  • I pay for the opportunity that my boy can have and will have to make life-long friendships.
  • I pay for the chance that he may have amazing coaches that will teach him that fencing is not just about game plans but about life.
  • I pay for my child to learn to be disciplined.
  • I pay for my boy to learn to take care of his body.
  • I pay for my son to learn to work with others and to be a proud, supportive, kind and respectful team member.
  • I pay for my child to learn to deal with disappointment, when he doesn’t get that result he hoped for, or missed the hit despite having practiced a thousand times, but still gets up and is determined to do his BEST next time…
  • I pay for my boy to learn to make and accomplish goals.
  • I pay for my son to learn that it takes hours and hours and hours and hours of hard work and practice to create a champion, and that success does not happen overnight.
  • I pay so that my son can be on the piste instead of in front of a screen…

I could go on but, to be short, I don’t pay for fencing; I pay for the opportunities that fencing provides my child to develop attributes that will serve him well throughout his life, and give him the opportunity to bless the lives of others. From what I have seen for many years, I think it is a great investment!

I couldn’t agree more with the confession above.

I would strongly recommend all parents to ask themselves these questions before we start back in January:

Why am I signing my child up for fencing?

When my child is done with fencing, what will she/he remember most?

What does my child want and need from me as she/he fences?


British Fencing – Parents in Sport: Pushy or Supportive, Mageau, G.A. and Vallerand, R.J., The Coach-Athlete Relationship: A Motivational Model, Journal of Sports Sciences, 2003, 21