Learning how to deal with Lavar Ball Type Parents by John Mietus
Coaching basketball at any level should be about developing young athletes to the best of their ability. Instead, the modern American youth basketball system has become about human greed and idiocy. Seeking to capitalize on the talents of his children, Lavar Ball has inserted himself into the conversation of sports parents in America whether we like it or not. Now, I don’t believe his behavior is unprecedented in the sports’ parent world, but it has become magnified due to his platform of having two NBA-bound sons. His histrionics regarding women, referees, and his general attitude towards players much more accomplished than his sons has been a sight to behold, and boy does the media eat it up. Lavar is the final extension of capitalism meeting athletics, where the athlete is merely a product, and having a full-time hype machine is more beneficial than harmful.
Of course, Lavar Ball also got his son’s high school basketball coach fired for disagreeing with Ball’s preference about playing time. And this type of sports’ parent has been around since the dawn of competitive sports. These parents linger over a program and make sure that the coach never feels comfortable in his job. A parent like this ruins the enjoyment of the game for the coach and often for his children because no matter what the coach does, it isn’t good enough. Chino Hills High School has had unprecedented success with Ball’s children in the program, but apparently falling short of repeating a state title was not good enough to appease Ball’s ego.
I believe the first tactic toward heading off a parent with this type of interference pattern is to meet with all your team parents before the season starts. Explain in no uncertain terms that this is a TEAM and that your job is not to promote one individual over another, but to always serve in the best interest of the group. I like to tell parents that they are more than welcome to advocate for more playing time for any player on the team except their own.
Secondly, it is good to remind parents that nobody works well with a supervisor lingering over their shoulder while they work. This isn’t to say that you the coach would be slacking off, but that constant supervision makes for an unhealthy tension in the workplace. You need the freedom to install your program and do your best work. Coaches may be many things, but very rarely do I meet a coach who is actively seeking to lose games. Send the message to helicopter parents that their attempts to micro manage your program are unwelcome and will be met with a brick wall of resistance.
Seek administrative support. By keeping the lines of communication between yourself and the athletic director open, you have a much better chance to fend off overzealous parents who are hurting your program. If the athletic director believes you to be a coach of high character, he is much more likely to defend you when parents come to complain. If you alienate the AD, you might not have that critical support when you need it most.
Ultimately, parents do have a lot of power in youth sports and can often push school districts around to get what they want. But by setting the tone of your program early and enlisting bureaucratic support when possible, you have a much better chance to have long term success. The Lavar Ball’s of the world only win when coaches are too passive or too fearful to fight back in the appropriate manner.